CTBHHM: Discretion and the Jewel in the Pig’s Nose

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 188—189

Here we begin the chapter titled “To Be Discreet.” Debi of course starts by quoting Titus 2 once again, given that she is going through it’s pieces one by one and the phrase “that they may teach the young women . . . to be discreet” is the subject of this chapter. She then defines “to be discreet”:

To be discreet: Prudent; wise in avoiding error and in selecting the best means to accomplish a purpose; circumspect, courteous, polite, honest dealings.

There’s nothing terribly wrong with that. Now, though, I’m bracing myself for Debi’s spin on it, because Debi so very frequently takes concepts that aren’t so terribly wrong and makes them terribly wrong.

We learned the practical side of marriage when we studied the word sober, the sexual side when we studied to love our husband, and that our job is to be instant in season and out of season when we learned how to love our children.

What does “instant in season and out of season” mean? My only guess is that it means to be always on the ball, which seems quite a demanding task.

The next word on God’s list is discreet. One usually thinks of discretion as the ability to avoid saying or doing that which si inappropriate—to know when and how to conduct oneself so as not to offend. If this is all that is intended by the text, then a person intending to commit fraud would always attempt to do so discreetly, but much more is obviously contained in this word.

Funny, Merriam-Webster defines “discreet” as “having or showing discernment or good judgment in conduct and especially in speech.” Sure, being discreet is often thought to have a lot with speech, but I’m not sure where Debi’s getting that bit about fraud there. Note though, that she’s about to write an entire chapter drawn from a single word. That might help explain why she wants to milk more meaning out of the word.

The Greek word that is translated discreet is also translated, in the Authorized Version, “taste” several times. In other instances, it is translated “behavior” and “judgment.” Discretion, therefore is, having good tastes . . . good judgement . . . useful . . . to be of good understanding.

In case you’re wondering, “Authorized Version” is another term for the King James Version.

God says that a woman who lacks discretion is like a jewel in a pig’s nose. She is ridiculous, out of place, embarrassing, a joke. Something otherwise lovely is rendered ridiculous in the context of indiscretion. She might be pretty, a real beauty, but if the jewel is in the nose of a pig, what good is it?

Does God say a man who lacks discretion is like a jewel in a pig’s nose? No? Well okay then.

As I studied the word discreet, I realized how easy it is for us women to miss having the character trait of discretion, and I marveled that so many of us so often have been guilty of its lack in our character.

Why am I so afraid “discretion” means “sit down and be silent”?

Seek to be Courteous (consideration of others) 

^ This is the first of a list of headings in which Debi further explains what it means to be “discreet.”

If you read the life stories of prisoners who have been rehabilitated, you will notice one thing they all have in common. It doesn’t matter if the man is God-fearing or not, they all write that the day they learned to be considerate of others was the first day they stopped being the kind of man that put them behind bars. Rehabilitated men write of learning to be considerate of other men’s right to walk unharmed down the street, the right of the lady to live without fear, the old man’s right to drive slowly through town without being reviled or teased, and the right of the young child to grow up unmolested. Consideration is just another way of saying, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

I’m skeptical of Debi’s salvation narrative regarding prisoners (is it really that simple?), but I do agree that “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” is a worthwhile goal. I’m not finding a whole lot to disagree with here, which is a welcome change.

A child learns how to be considerate by watching his parents be considerate—the same way they learn how to be “good” hypocrites. If a parent exhibits a great deal of politeness toward a guest while he is present, but speaks ill of him when he is gone, this teaches the child to be dishonest and hypocritical. Being polite and being considerate are not necessarily the same—or even related. Politeness is just performing in a culturally acceptable way. The motivation to be polite can be quite selfish.

Yes—but. I just keep feeling that these ideas when wrapped with ideas about female submission and proper femininity have the potential to quickly turn toxic.

The Old Red Truck

Almost 20 years ago, my husband decided we would leave our lifetime home in Memphis and move to the country 170 miles away. At our new home, many of our neighbors were Amish or Mennonite-born. It did not take us long to realize that discretion was a character trait highly valued among these plain people. Our Amish neighbors never used anyone unfairly and would never cheat or steal.

Debi then tells a story of lending an old red pickup truck to a young Amish man, who returned it not only with a full tank of gas but also with repairs it had needed for a long time. This young man, she says, was discreet.

When you are discreet, wise, and kind in your dealings with other people, you will reap the benefits throughout life. If you treat someone shabbily or unfairly, even when you have a good excuse, it will never be forgotten.

Oh okay, here’s part of what’s getting to me. When you’re completely and totally “discreet” according to Debi’s definition of the word, it’s also really easy for others to take advantage of you. You end up being a smiling flower, a pushover.

Seek to be Honest

^ This is the second heading in Debi’s explanation of what “discreet” means.

If a woman uses her friends by asking unnecessary favors or by borrowing and not returning, she is showing a lack of basic courtesy, which is an important element of discretion. When a woman manipulates people or situations, leaving others feeling used, all the while smiling in triumph at getting her way, she is the one actually losing.

Yes, this is true. Friendships should go both ways.

Women who want the best food, clothes, chair, jewelry, car, etc., are fodder for Satan. ” . . . envy slayeth the silly one” (Job 5:2). (Silly one: rude, simple, contemptuous of character). Silly women are so easy to deceive into believing a lie. Satan will provide ample opportunities for her to use people. He wants to make fools of us all, but the woman without discretion is easy prey, making it easy for him to lead her astray.

Ouch. Note too the conflation between ambition in a woman and being “silly.” Perhaps Debi would also dub the man who wants the best food, clothes, chair (just what does that even mean?), jewelry, and car “silly,” but I rather doubt it.

The woman without discretion will go to the local eatery and get ten packets of sugar while sweetening her coffee, and use only one, taking the others home. She will use other’s resources and think she is “cool” for pulling it off and then will brag to her “friends.” Those who hear her might laugh, and she interprets it as admiration, but they go away knowing that there is something disgusting about their “friend.” She is not considerate, courteous, or thoughtful. She uses others with no thought to the hurt it might cause. You can see why God calls her a jewel in the end of a pig’s nose.

Double ouch. Disgusting? Really?

Also this whole pig thing is making me uncomfortable. It feels very . . . demeaning, what Debi is doing. (Yes I know it’s from Proverbs. I don’t know if it feels demeaning because it just does, or because it’s Debi writing all this.)

Men are aware that women are sometimes spiritually acute and sensitive, so unless the woman has proven otherwise, men tend to hold them in a kind of reverence. They like to believe their women are good, wholesome, and clean and that their consciences are pure.

Men who think that aren’t relating to their wives as people, person to person, equal to equal, friend to friend, or they would know that “their women” are as human as they themselves. Also, are women more spiritual or not? Whatever happened to lambasting women who said they were especially spiritual or sensitive? It’s suddenly okay and a fact now?

Many a fight has occurred over a woman’s honor.

And many a fight has occurred over a man’s honor. Aaron Burr, anyone?

Down at the prison where my husband goes each week to preach, all the men hold their mamas in high esteem, but few care about their daddies. If a many of integrity has the misfortune of having a wife who has a suggestion of dishonesty about her, that man will be ashamed, but it will be a silent shame, and it will eat away at him, at his soul and at his honor.

Well, hey, Debi made it all the way to here before making it all about the men after all. That must be a record. Go Debi!

So far this chapter hasn’t been so awfully bad, especially compared to other chapters. On that note, I just flipped ahead, and next week we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming! It’s a letter that was seared into my brain the first time I read it because of just how crazy Debi’s response was. Next week we get a real example of what being “discreet” actually means, and it’s not pretty.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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