I hate the Proverbs 31 woman

You know what drives me crazy? “Busy” status updates on Twitter and Facebook.

You know the ones I’m talking about:

Today I’m planting my garden, making my own baby food, homeschooling my six children, baking cookies for my husband to take to work, running 5-miles, cleaning the bathroom, doing the laundry, knitting a baby blanket for a friend’s shower, planning a retreat for my church group and taking an elderly friend to the hospital…all before noon and after I’ve had my hour-long quiet time with God.

Of course, the reason I hate them is because they make me feel guilty.

I’m usually reading this list of accomplishments at noon in my pajamas, in my kitchen that is still dirty from the previous night’s dinner, while my children are watching TV in the living room waiting for their chicken nuggets to come out of the microwave, and hoping Josh will bring home food from work for dinner because I haven’t gone grocery shopping in two weeks.

You think I’m kidding…

Enter the Guilt.

Those status updates make me feel as though someone has backed up a 5-ton dump truck and emptied its load of fertilizer on top of me…I’m weighed down and stinky.

The funniest part is I already have twice that amount of guilt resting on my shoulders, without knowing the wonderful things others are doing as a wife and mother. I’m driven and have extremely high expectations for myself. I read somewhere that we’re all perfect parents, before we have kids.

That was me.

I thought I had it all figured out and I was going to excel as a wife and mother. I would stay home, have a spotless house, play with my children, cook nutritious and delicious meals (after all, cooking is one of my favorite things), and have a daily morning devotion time with my children (since I’m a bible college graduate).

This is exactly why my New Year’s Resolution was to cut myself some slack. NO ONE can maintain that at all times! It’s not possible! Please don’t tell me that you do, because that means you’re a figment of my imagination, sent to torment me, and I have officially lost it because my delusions are posting comments on my blog.

I will say this again:

NO

ONE

does this consistently.

You get sick. Your kids get sick. You’re up all night with a teething toddler. A neighbor drops by with their kids. The dishwasher/dryer/toilet/oven breaks. You’re tired. You’re PMSing. You’re lonely/depressed/angry/discouraged. You’re stuck in traffic. You’re children decide that they’re no longer going to listen to you for the day.

Sometimes things don’t turn out like we plan. Life comes in and whirls us around like a spoon in the garbage disposal. We get a little beaten, bruised and chipped before things calm down again.

So, imagine my disdain when I go to read my Bible (on the rare day that I can sit down for a quiet time) and I’m bombarded by a busy status update.

Right there.

In

My

Bible.

I really hate that Proverbs 31 woman.

No, I don’t hate her. It’s just that…

She makes me feel guilty. Every. Time.

I heard a sermon on Proverbs 31 this last weekend. I sat there, holding a squirmy Silas in the back of the sanctuary, squirming myself under the bitter and guilty thoughts. I realized that I avoid this chapter of the Bible because I walk away feeling awful.

And this got me thinking…does God cause me to feel guilty, or do I do this to myself?

What was God’s purpose in putting passages like Proverbs 31 in the Bible? And there are others. For example, look at what 1 Timothy says about the life church leaders should lead. And you can’t even write that one off by saying it’s Old Testament living.

So, this whole little rant is just an introduction to a discussion I’d like to have this week on guilt. I’d love for you to join me tomorrow where I will look further into the subject and what God has to say about it.

Is there a passage of Scripture you avoid because it makes you feel guilty?

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40 thoughts on “I hate the Proverbs 31 woman

  1. ok, well I could write a book on guilt! I heard once that the Proverbs 31 woman was what we look to as an example of being a godly wife, mother, friend, etc. I still avoid it like the plague! There are a few other verses about obedience that kinda hang me up too. ugh! This is not what God intended when it was written, I’m sure of it. Because it says that condemnation (guilt) is NOT from God.
    I still have a hard time with the Word. And it’s for my own good!! Like broccoli. Except I love broccoli!

    • I didn’t realize that I avoid it, until I was sitting there listening to that sermon. The pastor was doing a very good, non-guilt-tripy, job of discussing it, but I still felt condemned. I’m sure you’re right that this is not what God intended when it was written, which is what I’m going to talk about tomorrow. :) And…mmm, broccoli. I love broccoli, too!

    • Lisa-Jo, PJs until 4:30 PM is completely acceptable, even required, when you’re pregnant. :) Maybe that’s it…I’ve been pregnant for 6 years and so I forgot what normal life is supposed to be like. Haha!

  2. I think it is SO much easier for me to update when I’m actually being productive. I feel like if I have a day when I AM getting stuff done (as opposed to most normal days when I “love the rain” as I sit in my house in a hoodie and eat cereal all day) then I should broadcast it to the world. It makes me feel less guilty to look back over my status updates and see positive posts. Haha! Part of needing to look like I’ve got it together…Can’t get vulnerable, right?

    But the guilt…Oh I feel it. I did a study of Prov. 31 and picked it apart, focusing on 1 principle a week for a couple months. It was actually really good for me to look at “what does this mean for me?” and “How would God want me to apply this to my life?” This was before I became a mother.

    While I do feel that it helped me grow past some of the wife guilt I had been feeling (here I was a 22-year-old college graduate, working part time at a really fun theatre job, sitting around “enjoying the rain,” letting my sweet hubby support me and take care of lots of the housework). I did need to improve, but I also didn’t need to feel the guilt. So, the Lord used that verse to teach/motivate me to find ways to be more productive and take care of my hubby like he takes care of me. :-)

    I recently read it and thought, “how did I miss the part of rising while it was dark to make food?!?” HAHA!!! Let me tell you, that’s not gonna happen. Okay, okay, I’ll submit it to the Lord, and if he really wants me to do that, I’ll do it, but I think it is so funny that my first reaction was, “should I be doing that? Oh, no…But I DON’T…Does that mean I’m a bad mother?” NO!! It means I’m a GREAT mom for knowing that if I get as much sleep as possible, I’ll be happier, more patient, and have more energy to do things that are really important for my child(ren)…Like change London’s diaper.

    So, I’m totally with you on the guilt thing. I often react that way when I see other people’s “busy” updates, then I think, “Poor thing, she’s just dealing with her own guilt…Good for her for making herself feel better by highlighting her 1 day of productivity this month!” Haha! :-)

    Good topic.

    • It’s definitely easier to update when we’ve accomplished much, and I asked Josh if this post would make anyone feel uncomfortable because I know that I’ve done it multiple times. I think, too, that sometimes us SAHMs feel like people don’t see what we do as work, so we’re trying to show just how much we do all day. And really, a status update that says, “I dealt with my children’s screaming tantrums, swept the floor (6 times), showered and hid from the fighting in the bathroom for 20 minutes” doesn’t really explain how difficult that all was, except to other parents. I liked how you said that you needed to improve, but didn’t need to feel the guilt. That’s what I want to talk about tomorrow.

      And really, “rising while it was dark to make food” is the only one that I can read and think, “Check!” After all, I am awake every morning at 4 AM “making” food for Silas. Haha!

      You are a great mom, Haley! And a kind, gracious person. Your last comment about how you react to those “busy” status updates shows it. :)

  3. I am sooooo looking forward to this topic! As long as it doesn’t make me feel guilty. LOL Can I just tell you that the sample status update wouldn’t even be that lengthy and productive for me if I posted what I had gotten done in the entire month of October? I’ve often wondered about how the ideals of the Proverbs 31 woman apply to me today. And, side note…has anyone ever noticed the pretext of Proverbs 31??!??! It was “an inspired utterance” of King Lemuel taught to him by his MOTHER! So, basically, she was telling him what kind of wife he should be looking for. I’m wondering if she told him all this stuff so he would never get married because I don’t know how he could ever find a woman who fulfilled all of those things. And, if he did find a wife, I seriously want to know what that mother in law/daughter in law relationship was like.

    • Haha! Keri, that last sentence cracked me up!! Seriously, right?

      Funnily enough, I felt so guilty for titling this post how I did. I didn’t want to come across bitter and jaded. :) If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

    • Exactly. This is not an example of the perfect wife. It is an example of the perfect daughter-in-law. That realization helps me keep everything I read about Mrs P31 in perspective. Yes, perhaps we should aspire to these things, but maybe not kill ourselves trying to be something/someone we are not.

  4. I have experienced a great many things, but I’m pretty sure PMSing isn’t one of them. :)

    I know women process guilt differently than guys so I won’t pretend it’s the same, but I think any scripture has the ability to make us feel guilty if we aren’t relying on grace. Knowing who God is, knowing who He made us to be, and knowing He gives the strength to live it by grace–that’s all we can do.

    Look forward to the next discussions. Thanks Melissa.

    • Honestly, I haven’t experienced that much in the last 7 years either. Haha! TMI? I’ve seen you on Twitter, so I know you’ll just laugh.

      I was trying to make this about both men and women, it’s just that Proverbs 31 was the prompt. Seriously, though, reading 1 Timothy is intimidating when you are in a ministry position. The one that always gets thrown in pastor’s faces is, “…but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” I know that one puts so much pressure on a minister and his/her family.

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head…it’s all about grace. But I’ll talk more about that on Thursday for the Faith Jam. :)

  5. Your honesty rocks! There have been so many times when I avoided reading Proverbs 31 for the same reason – I just felt like a let-down. We have to make the choice to use it (Proverbs 31) as encouragement and not a guilt provoker. (So hard sometimes.)

  6. Melissa, I think we have all been there. Our expectations and desired outcome does not align. But, the beautiful thing is that examples such as “the proverbs 31 woman” help us to not become satisfied with our present circumstances. If we do not allow guilt to come from it, it pushes us to grow. Also, nobody is super woman. I bet you spend lots of time loving on your kids, and that is important.

    • This is right on! And it’s what I’m taking a look at this week. I think so many of us have the same initial reaction, guilt, but then don’t always press on further to discover why we have guilt, if we should have guilt and what we should do. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  7. Melissa, I’m pretty sure Proverbs 31 describes the various seasons in our life, and not something we live it out all at once. It gives us a cookbook filled with recipes that we work out one at a time. We gradually become practiced with them, so that we one day can accomplish them all at once for a wonderful feast.

  8. I decided years ago that the Proverbs 31 woman is an ideal, and as such doesn’t really exist. She is a standard that I can aspire to, but if she doesn’t really exist then I don’t have to feel bad about not being her.

    That would be like feeling guilty that I’m not Jesus. Which is ridiculous.

    So I washed my hands of the guilt and have liked her a lot better ever since.

    My challenge area is more whether my kids are perfect. I always take it personally when they break things or get caught lying/cheating/stealing etc. And I feel guilty that I didn’t do something right.

    So I am looking forward to the rest of your posts. Maybe I can find some absolution.

    • “…if she doesn’t really exist then I don’t have to feel bad about not being her.”

      Haha! So true.

      And thanks for brining up the point about our kids. There’s so much guilt to be found in life if we compare ourselves to others and our own ideals. I’m learning this more and more.

  9. Hi!
    Not to seem like the odd ball…. but, I love Proverbs 31! Its one of the passages I read over an over again… It makes me feel like I can do it! With God’s grace and direction I can be more… It’s okay to like (LOVE) working, serving, mothering, wifeing… There is a way to do all these things with grace, dignity and while honoring my family, husband & community…
    Am I crazy? I want it all. I really love Proverbs 31. She inspires me.

    In recent months, I have cut way back on status updates. I realized so many were about the busyness of the day. What am I trying to prove? They make me look like a crazed manic. No one cares what I am doing all day…

    Guilt is a useless emotion. It is a form of self deception that makes me look at myself and not at what God is saying to me or what people around me are going through. When I become so focused on myself and how I think I am doing, I loose sight of things that really matter…. I do things for the wrong reasons. To look good, busy, or useful… To avoid feeling less than someone else… To avoid feeling… When guilt plagues me I know I am in a self absorbed state. Often the only thing to be convicted about is comparing myself to a standard other than God’s standard for me.
    For me, the great challenge is learning how to be convicted by the Holy Spirit, respond, repent, and move on.
    (Now, I will try not to feel guilty that I have not mastered this yet…)

    Thanks Melissa for a thought provoking post! I love you my friend.

    • You would!

      Just kidding. Actually, Jessica, I think you are one of those people who actually embodies much of what Proverbs 31 says. Even better, you do it in such a way that no one around you feels less than, it’s just who you are. You fully lean into God for strength and wisdom and you trust that He will provide the means for you to get it all done. I know I tease you a lot about being crazy, but I respect who you are and all that you do. You don’t do it for your own glory, you do it to support your husband, train up your kids, minister to your community and church and love on your friends. Your status updates never felt like bragging to me, it was more like, “This is what God’s doing in my life right now.”

      You’re right, guilt is a useless emotion. Reading your last paragraph was like sitting down with you, and it makes me miss you sooooo much! Love you friend!! You inspire me.

  10. Is it possible to feel convicted and relieved by this post at the same time?

    Convicted b/c sometimes I do those crazy status updates you’ve mentioned…but they are usually only in hindsight…when I realize how crazy my day has gone – and never what I set out to do when I woke up! Goodness knows I go to bed each night with more items left on my to do list than ones crossed off. I think if we’re all being honest, most of us feel that way, too.

    Your post is absolutely RIGHT ON and I love it, Melissa.

    Can I also say how much I am in love with the image you used for this post?

    • No, don’t! I was worried about that very thing. I don’t want anyone to feel guilty for putting up those status updates, because I know I’ve done them myself. And you, Ang, are superwoman! I’m constantly amazed by all you do with your family, your blog, your life. There are actually times when I’m sitting watching TV and think, Angela would be writing a blog post right now, or working out, or cleaning. You are an inspiration for so many people…all that to say that I know you’re not perfect either and have those down days. The thing about social media is that we see what people want us to see. So, when someone’s having a crazy busy day it’s posted, then the next day someone else is and they post, but we just see it as everyone around us is doing much and we’re not. My point was that NO ONE is that way consistently. :)

      And I love the image too! :)

  11. I think Proverbs 31 lends itself to the reminder that life is a marathon and not a sprint. If it were a sprint, we’d all fail. Who can pack all that in before noon/100 yards? Nobody.

    I think of my own mother. I arise and call her blessed just like the Bible said I would. Was she perfect? Heck to the no. I know that and I STILL think she’s above rubies and all the other gems out there.

    The secret behind Proverbs 31 is that the woman wasn’t assessing herself, like we do in blog posts and in bed at 3am when we can’t sleep.

    All the observations about the Proverbs 31 woman come from the ~outside~. We are much harder on ourselves than our children, husbands, and friends ever are.

    • Great thoughts on the topic, Gretchen! And what a wonderful thing to say about your mom. I hadn’t noticed that about the observations being from the outside. I wonder what she would have thought of herself, or who she was comparing herself to…

  12. So I think I’m pretty much going to stay away from bringing up this passage to women from now on. Honestly, I had no idea how heavy it weighed on so many. I’ve been hearing countless stories just like your on this.

    I’m confident that this wasn’t written to bring guilt or condemnation. I also don’t believe that this is some lofty standard that all women are expected to live up to.

    My prayer is that women are inspired and not discouraged by this passage. One common thread I see in women is that they don’t usually give themselves enough credit. Being raised in a home with 3 women, I know first hand what amazing women of God consist of. They may not complete the checklist in Proverbes 31, but they are pretty amazing. I know God sees it and I pray that all women see themselves as God sees them.

  13. I know what you mean. I have hated the proverbs 31 passage as well, and I have avoided lots of sections as of the bible as I’ve healed from the understanding of God I grew up with. One thing I’d like to point out, is that the proverbs 31 woman is fictional, she is a list of ideals told to a young man by his mom, and what mom isn’t going to tell her son to shoot for the moon? If you look at the real women in the bible they have the same struggles and stories as any modern woman. In fact, the women mentioned in Jesus’ geneology alone include a woman in adultery, a woman who slept with her father in law, a former prostitute and a non jew.

    • Great comments about who the “real” women of the Bible are. It’s comforting to remember that God uses us wherever we’re at in our walk with Him! :)

  14. Melissa,
    How I get out of the Proverbs 31 woman is I usually think she’s an example of all women. So, I look at her and find the one thing or the few things that I do identify with and say ok that’s me, or that’s not me. Because God does make us with different strengths and abilities.
    From a mom who only has 2 kids and still hasn’t unpacked her suitcase (or anyone else’s) from not last weekend but the weekend before’s trip and whose husband might have clean boxers for tomorrow,
    Caryn

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  16. So i didn’t read this yesterday because I was “BUSY!”.

    Translation: My husband turned off the internet because I have NO discipline to pry my fingers off the keyboard and my house hasn’t been cleaned in forever and I was sending my kids back to the hamper to find clothes to wear to school! And I took at shower at 7 p.m. Which is REALLY good, because usually it takes a couple days! Haha!

    So. Yes, NO woman can be this proverbs 31 woman.

    i am not called to follow this woman.
    i am called to follow Jesus.

    Now, as far as guilt is concerned. I honestly don’t feel guilt. (don’t hate!!!). i feel envy. Envy and Jealousy, even at this infamous woman, who happens to be my pastor’s wife and the woman who leads my prayer group and my friend who leads worship.

    Yet, each of these women have starred me in the face and said, “I mess up! I’m not perfect!”

    So she’s a figment of imagination for sure!

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  20. “A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” ~ the Proverbs 31 woman fears God – that’s all she is! and that’s what we are called to be… When we fear God, He works in s and helps us to accomplish things (not necessarily according to the L I S T made in that chapter… but things relevant to our individual situations, families, homes, environment etc! God help us to fear him, that’s what truly matters…

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  22. Boy, you have hit the nail on the head! Thanks for an honest and refreshing, not to mention guiltless, look at the difficulties of having it all, doing it all. Whew! I can feel the guilt rolling off even as I type. BTW, I found you through a comment you made on Jeff Goins blog. You linked this post (smart lady, you) and I had to click over because of the title. And I was rewarded with a great article — thanks!

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