On Feminine Discretion

A recent article from the Wall Street Journal talks about women who lack discretion. Eric Felton opens his article with the startling words: “Pity the man whose wife writes a memoir.”

Some things are meant to be hidden–but many women have difficulty keeping them hidden. Women are a sociable sort. We delight in revealing the details of our lives to one another.

The mad swathes of “Mommy Bloggers” are just one manifestation of the delight women take in sharing their lives. Mommy bloggers (and mommy blogger wannabes like myself) share the minutiae of their thoughts, their days, their homes, their children–and all too often, their husbands.

In Luke 2:19, we read that Mary “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” But this appears to be far from the norm for women. Learning discretion is often an uphill battle for us.

Yet, Scripture makes it clear that discretion is a godly and desirable trait for women. Titus 2:4-5 encourages older women to “admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands.”

According to the Free Online Dictionary, the word discreet means “marked by, exercising, or showing prudence and wise self-restraint in speech and behavior; circumspect. Free from ostentation or pretension; modest.”

Discreet, prudent, self-restrained, circumspect, un-ostentatious, unpretentious, modest. That is what God calls us as women to be.

And why are we to be discreet? We are to be discreet because discretion makes us beautiful. Proverbs 11:22 provides incentive for women to embrace discretion: “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.” No matter how beautiful you are, if you lack discretion, you’re like a pretty ring in a pig’s nose. Blech!

But discretion does more than simply enhance our reputation–it enhances God’s reputation too. Titus 2:5 tells us why young women are to be discreet: “that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” Our feminine discretion, or lack thereof, reflects directly on the God we serve. If we want our lives to glorify God, we must choose to cultivate discretion.

Additionally, Proverbs 12:4 contrasts the excellent wife with the one who is indiscreet: “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.”

Wanna be a good wife? Learn discretion.

I’ve been reading the book Rocking the Roles by Robert Lewis and William Hendricks. The authors speak of four “core concerns” for a wife. The first two are admiration and support. A wife is to admire and support her husband. Both of these fall easily under the umbrella term respect. Ephesians 5:33 says “And let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Respects her husband. What does that mean? The Free Online Dictionary defines respect as “to feel or show deferential regard for; esteem. To avoid violation of or interference with. To relate or refer to; concern.”

How does a wife show respect for her husband? The question has risen in my mind several times throughout my reading.

But I think the answer, or at least part of the answer, is simple. A wife sees that she respects her husband by cultivating discretion. She esteems him personally and publicly by showing her husband’s best side to the world–and by discreetly NOT sharing his faults with others.

Proverbs 12:4 refers to this, saying “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.” A wife can either crown her husband with honor, or she can shame him by her speech. It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which is preferable.

This discretion appears to be a mark of the Proverbs 31 woman. Verses 11 and 12 say “The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all of the days of her life.” The Proverbs 31 husband can safely share himself with his wife, because he knows she will be discreet with what he shows her. He can trust her with his heart, his mind, his body; knowing that she will not ridicule him. Anything that she does share or reveal is for his good, not for evil. He never lacks gain because his wife actively promotes his positives and minimizes his negatives.

Discretion is a trait worth cultivating for its own sake and for our own sakes–who wants to be a gold ring in a pig’s nose? But feminine discretion goes beyond just benefiting us as women–it benefits God’s reputation and it benefits our husbands.

So let’s put aside the inclinations of our flesh that would have us be idle, wandering from house to house as gossips and busybodies, saying things which we ought not (I Timothy 5:13), and instead learn discretion. It’ll benefit us. It’ll benefit our husbands (even for the unmarried ladies–note that Proverbs 31:10 says she brings him good ALL the days of her life, not just the days that she’s married to him). And it’ll benefit God’s reputation.

What have we got to lose? Only our sin. What’ve we got to gain? Much.

Lord, I desire to honor You, to honor my husband, to be an honorable woman. Would you work in me both to will and to be a woman of discretion? Help me to lay down my personal inclination for over-sharing and to learn to guard both my heart and those hearts which others have entrusted to my care.

5 thoughts on “On Feminine Discretion”

  1. Showing off my spaghetti brain… All the days of her life. I was pondering this morning on the way to work how a few of my acquantances and their husbands have lists of celebrities they are “allowed” to sleep with if ever given the chance. This is supposed to make them feel free. They maintain that since I am unmarried, I am “free” to sleep with whomever. This morning, I formulated my argument about why that is wrong, including this: Monogamy doesn’t begin with marriage, it is fulfilled in marriage. Discretion! In all things.


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