I cannot stand the word “submission” unless it’s referring to a race entry, so when our 6-week marital group session was going to be about submission, the feisty warrior side of me sprung up, ready for battle. Our group is Christian-based and while the little video we watched (each of the 6 sessions deals with a marriage-relevant topic and we start with a 20 minute video to spur on a discussion) was definitely not the way I would have explored this subject, the ensuing discussion with my friends brought up some interesting points. The main point, for me, was the power that we women have in setting the tone for a happy marriage and family unit.
The day of our group happened to be International Women’s Day. But I don’t need an occasion (yet to be discovered by Hallmark, apparently) for me to be reminded of how absolutely awesome we women are. Earlier in the day Bill (my husband) and I went for a long run and as we ran single-file, on the side of the road as the sidewalks were still ice-covered, sometimes Bill was in the lead and sometimes I was. It depended on who felt the need to go ahead (his nickname is Hill Billy for a reason – he charges up them), or who dropped behind (I stopped to take some pictures). It occurred to me a few times that in some cultures, women MUST always be behind their husband when walking in public. When I thought of that, I felt grateful that I live in a country and within a marriage where the freedom to lead or to follow is granted, and taken for granted.
This morning a friend of mine posted a link to a video, on Facebook, about the way a child’s developing brain is affected by violence. A child’s brain is such a sponge, especially in the first 3 years, that even an infant’s brain is severely impacted by exposure to an environment steeped in physical violence, verbal abuse, non-love. The friend who shared this powerful video is one of the 20 families whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School by a young man whose life was a series of missed opportunities for members of his family and community and government to choose to LEAD by SUBMITTING to do the right thing.
See, submission doesn’t have to be a bad word. Just like when you hit the SUBMIT button on a race registration or a job or school application or a plane ticket purchase – this action can trigger a mix of excitement, dread, fear, motivation, inertia, self-doubt, valor, determination. In the marital group, we spoke of how even in the Christian, Scripture-based context of submission, the important part of it is that it occurs with a huge level of mutual trust and love. These are the crucial ingredients, otherwise submission in marriage is like making oatmeal cookies and omitting the oatmeal (I actually did this once, by mistake, and they were hard and gross and I threw them out).
I still have issues with some interpretations of Biblical submission, but I won’t get into that here. Rather, what I want to emphasize is that as a gender, we women are really powerful beyond what we, through the actions and attitudes I see every day, realize or appreciate. In the virtual and the real world, I see people, especially women, submitting to what I can only see as behavior and attitudes that reflect feelings of inadequacy, comparison, hyper-consumerism. I have been a student – a disciple – of mindfulness for years, even before yoga became the new step aerobics, and whether it’s on Facebook or in other media, I am often aware of the mindlessness with which so many of us live our days. In fact, last week, when the local superintendent made the call not to cancel school due to weather, the discussion in the local parents group was so conflict-ridden that the regional newspaper printed an article about it (so long, in fact, that it spread to 2 pages). I could not help but think gosh, so many of us have plenty of great intentions to effect change, and yet we are spending our gifts of time and other resources on stuff that when you really think about it, do not really affect the quality of our long-term life. At least not in a positive way. We submit to the petty stuff because it is easier to rise to the bait in online conversations, or purchase the quick fix solution to our unhappiness, in the form of quick weight-loss systems or the latest brand-name boots. Soon the effects of either purchase wear off and then you need to get the next one.
Let us be mindful. Let us submit to courage, to compassion, to authenticity. Rather than carefully crafting this online and in-person image behind which we hide our messy selves, our inner demons, our fear of rejection – let us surrender all of that and reach out. The wrestling or hockey or ballet mom who has that hard edge or aloof air, may be suffering in shameful silence over God knows what. That online parent who makes those blanket, opinionated statements – let us be the ones to model Taking a Breath and then either choose to not engage, or better yet, privately reach out to suggest a coffee. Face-to-face conversation which has been preceded by setting an intention to truly listen, can be life-changing. Everyone is struggling with something.
Let us submit, by being brave enough to step out of our comfortable autopilot setting and into someone else’s world. Let us ask meaningful questions and even more importantly, really listen to the answers. There is no such thing as “not my business” because everything we do as moms, parents, humans, has a direct effect on the world around us. I believe as women, one of our many gifts is to set the tone for the day, for the family and beyond.
When the intention is one of love and compassion, and we commit to truly listening, the question that we may have perceived as “none of my business” can become the first step in transforming someone’s – and therefore everyone’s – world. And that is all of our business.
Motivational coach, athlete, mom, entrepreneur. I love helping people mindfully reboot their health & joy.