What Does It Mean To Submit?

The word “submit” means to, “accept or yield to a superior force or to the authority or will of another person.”

I’ve personally never liked the word, “submit.” It has such a negative connotation in modern culture. In most cases, it feels like you’re being subservient to someone else. In this case, your significant other. Some men have even used this word as a way to subjugate their women.

That being said, I decided to take a deeper dive past the surface of the word. In order to understand it more for myself and share with you what I’ve learned.

Literal Submission

I realized that we are constantly in a state of submission. We submit to our boss at work, law enforcement, state and federal laws, etc. Furthermore, anytime we gain employment, we submit to company policy. In addition, most people consider themselves to be leaders. However, if you’re a follower, you’ve submitted yourself to the leadership of someone else not named, “boyfriend or husband.”

Biblical Submission

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own [husbands], so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. This is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (1 Peter 3:1–6)

To be fair… when you first read that, it can be confusing. Or at the very least, hard to understand. In laymen’s terms, this is how women would adorn themselves to their spouses. Submission to their husbands. Not, their boyfriends.

This is an old concept, but a concept that is diluted in popular culture and used against women as a behavioral and control mechanism. In other words, a tool to get women to be more compliant. Obviously, this has met with some resistance.

Modern Submission (from a man’s perspective)

After speaking to groups of women, many of them stated that their boyfriends have asked (and even demanded) them to submit. When I asked them, “what did they mean by, submit?” They said… “he told me that a woman should submit to her man.” Based on that story and many others that sounded eerily similar, I decided to ask the men what the word, “submit,” meant to them. Listed below are a few bullet points and keywords from those conversations.

  • Listen
  • Be less argumentative
  • Become more compliant
  • Stop acting so independent
  • Passive
  • Subtle
  • Know-your-place
  • Combative
  • I’m the leader
  • You’re not the man, I am.
  • Does what she wants to do
  • Stop being so strong and stubborn

When prompted to tell me where they got these ideas of submission from, they all said, “it is in the bible.”  I had to pause because right then, I realized these men had no idea what submission is all about.


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6 Things Submission Is Not

John Piper, founder, and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary states:

  1. Submission is not agreeing on everything.
  2. Submission does not mean, leaving your brain at the altar.
  3. It does not mean, you do not try to influence your husband
  4. Submission is not, putting the will of the husband, before the will of Christ.
  5. It also does not mean, getting all of her spiritual strength through her husband.
  6. Submission does not mean, living or acting in fear.



Submission to God And His Law

First and foremost, if you believe in God, he is the head of your life. No one (not even your spouse) comes before him. So it makes sense, that when we are talking about submission, we should also be talking about, submission to God.  Submitting to his word and teachings. James writes in 4:7 “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Can’t resist the devil if you haven’t submitted yourself to God.

Photo Credit: Ben White

Therefore, a man who has not submitted himself to God and his word, cannot protect himself, or his family from the enemy.  As a result, he would be deemed, unsuitable as the leader of his household, and not worthy of submission from his wife.

What Should I Do?

The choice is ultimately yours. But if you are a believer, and you want to follow God’s principles as close as you possibly can, I’d fall back on the submission deal until you’re married.


Stop telling women they need to submit to you. Especially if you can’t even conceptualize the true, biblical definition of the word, “submit.”

  • Foster a better relationship with God.

Talk to someone who has walked this path. Listen and learn from them. Read, watch videos, even visit the church from time to time to fellowship with those that are taking the same journey as you.

  • Submit to God (humble yourself).
  • Submit to his word.

Perfection isn’t needed with this one. But do your best to follow his commandments and teachings.

  • Get your stuff together before you ask a woman to follow you.

How can you be an effective leader if you can’t show her what effective leadership looks like coming from you? This doesn’t mean you need to have all the money in the world. It also doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. Communicate… and ask her, “what does an effective leader look like?”

  • Pray [with] her, and for her.
  • Prepare yourself to be a husband, not a lifetime boyfriend.


submit-black woman
Photo Credit: Joel Mwakasege
  • Listen more
  • Prepare yourself to be a wife, not a long-term girlfriend.
  • Understand what submission is about, and decide if it is something you are capable of doing.
  • Pray for him (your future)
  • Support him
  • He can still be a leader, even though he isn’t your husband.
  • Leadership comes in many forms
  • Hold him accountable
  • Foster your relationship with God (first). Then foster your relationship together (under God).
  • Understand the word, so you can be on the same page.
  • It’s OK to back down.

Final Thoughts

When people talk about wife and husband privileges, submission is one that is exclusively reserved for a married couple. This doesn’t mean that flexibility and open-mindedness are off the menu.

What are your experiences with submission?
Women: Have you ever felt pressure from a boyfriend to submit?
Men: Do you believe you have the right to ask your woman (non-wife) to submit? If so, Why?

Have you ever had a man tell/ask you to submit? What do you think he meant, and how did you respond?

Please comment below