me vs. the proverbs 31 woman


I’m sure this isn’t something I’m supposed to admit. At least not out loud. I’m sure some would even consider it sacrilegious or something. But nonetheless, it’s true.

I hate the Proverbs 31 woman.

:: looks around for lightning bolts ::

But seriously. What’s not to hate?

She wakes up early. Every single day.
She makes things from scratch—clothes, bedding, meals, everything.
She gardens and farms and seems to rather enjoy getting dirt under her fingernails.
She’s a successful businesswoman, wife, mother, and leader.
She despises idleness (which, I’d imagine, includes Netflix-viewing marathons).
She’s wise and tactful. Always.
She’s a domestic goddess.
She laughs in the face of adversity.
She’s in great shape. Ugh.

And she’s been held up as the bar of godly womanhood my entire life.

Maybe I would have actually tried to live up to the standard she’d set, if it weren’t so laughable. Instead I’ve just quietly resented her, stuffing down my hostility and attempting to mask my eye rolls.

But I realize my disdain is misplaced. Because she doesn’t really exist.

She’s a figment of the Church’s imagination—poetic symbolism transformed into a mirage of the woman that we should all strive to be. The beauty of the character traits she displays—loyalty, wisdom, diligence, servanthood, faithfulness, compassion—got lost as I measured myself against the yardstick held out for me.

I could never measure up.

Never have. Never will.

The yardstick became a weapon of shame, telling me again and again and again: You are not enough. It echoed the message I already had on repeat in my heart—one that was reiterated with each rejection, each abandonment, each failure.

My journey of the past few years has been one of moving toward understanding and accepting my enoughness, simply because God says I’m enough.

Whole. Complete. Nothing missing, nothing broken.

So it shouldn’t matter what the measuring stick of this fictitious chick says about me.  It shouldn’t even matter what the Church thinks of me.

He says I’m enough—
even though I like to sleep in,
would eat out every meal if I could,
don’t really enjoy the outdoors,
love lazy Saturdays,
and have jiggly arms.

He says I’m enough—
even though I say stupid things,
fail at loving others well,
doubt, question, curse,
don’t pray or read the Bible very often,
and make mistakes (big and small).

He sees me and knows me and still declares me enough. Actually, He declares me good. “God looked over all He had made, and He saw that it was very good!” (Genesis 1:31)

So it’s time to let go of this grudge I’ve held against the Proverbs 31 woman.

I’m good just as I am…

photo credit: fiddleoak via photopin cc


18 Responses to “me vs. the proverbs 31 woman”
  1. Laurel says:

    Love this!!! Totally agree and I don’t like her very much either. Thanks for putting that into words.

  2. terri poss says:

    are we twins? except you’re a WHOLE LOT skinnier than I am!

  3. I didn’t even realize that people held the Proverbs 31 woman on a pedestal until I was in college, so I can’t speak to that… but then you started talking about not being enough and I said “yeah, wow, this.”

    In the last year I have met a Jesus who thinks I am worth fighting for, even on my worst days. He tells me I am enough even when I feel like I am lacking. It’s crazy that for 26 years in the church I never knew him. Thankfully he never gave up hope that someday I would notice that I am actually worth it.

    Hallelujah (for real)!

  4. jessica says:

    i was questioning my husband why he doesn’t say i’m one when i hear some many other husbands saying their wife is a ‘proverbs 31 woman”. i’ve read commentary after commentary about these verses to obsession looking for some sort of loophole, and drawing the conclusion it’s just another way i’m not measuring up.

    here’s a summary of how my husband replied:
    it is so trendy and over-used. probably 99% of the people saying probably haven’t even read it nor are their wives half of the things mentioned. i love you, i love being with you, you are a godly woman and you make my happy. you do far more than your share of the house duties and i appreciate all you do. i love your personality, you are hot, and you make me laugh. :)

  5. One of the best things a pastor has ever told me is that the Proverbs 31 woman isn’t A Woman. She is, like you said, a symbol of the many facets of womanhood. Hearing that made me a lot less resentful of her, but I still have my moments too. I’ve been reminding myself that I’m Enough a lot these days.

  6. Debra says:

    That’s interesting you felt that way because I was taught so differently. She has always been a composite of a woman over a lifetime, never one woman all at once. There are things about her I have used to help me be better in certain seasons, but once I had that picture, I didn’t compare. She, to me, is a lovely picture of years of living trials and love and laughter and joy focused on being the best of what God has called her to be. I’m sorry she has always been used to make you feel so defeated and ashamed. You are a rocking chick, Alece!

    • What Debra said.
      Also, any truth can be taken out of context when brought to extremes. That goes for believing that you can’t measure up verses not doing anything to be the best that you’re called to be. Our goal should be to please The Lord while having the knowledge that we are human and will make mistakes. So there is a balance even in grace. :)

  7. Amen Alece!
    thank you for the reminder of how HE sees us, and how that is ALL that matters

  8. Chris Monahan

    If you love the Lord and love people — as Jesus asks of us — the rest of it isn’t that important … and should be negotiable.

    That goes for us men, too.

  9. Mark Allman

    While you might resent the Proverbs 31 woman, in my mind you measure up very well. Looking at her characteristics instead of things she did she was one who:
    Brought good to others
    Worked with eager hands
    Works vigorously
    Opens her arms to the poor
    Extends her hands to the needy
    Speaks with wisdom
    Fears the Lord
    Clothed with strength and dignity.
    I have read about your work in Africa and beyond. I’m honored to be able to read things you write and know of your wisdom. I know the strength and dignity you have displayed in your struggles. Alece you are all these things and more.

  10. I read Proverbs more than most of the books. I love the wisdom it offers. I, however, usually skip 31. It’s daunting. I read it and think, I can’t do that. And even if I could, do I want to?

    But I was raised as you were, she was the ultimate woman. I’ve since decided I don’t want to be ultimate. I’m okay with enough. Good words, Alece.

  11. Pierre says:

    I can remember the first time I read Proverbs 31, thinking, “Yeah right, in your dream buddy”. I normally communicate with the writers that way, makes me feel more present. Anyway, my dad and I had a conversation about this “woman”. We soon started down the path of Song of Solomon. Both Proverbs and Song of Solomon were written by, well…Solomon. My dad had a totally different viewpoint. Proverbs 31 should not be read literally, but more as an ode from a husband to a wife. Almost like a lost chapter of Song of Solomon (specifically Song of Solomon chapter 7).

    In Song of Solomon a man describes her, his lover; whereas here in Proverbs we have a husband ennobling his wife. The husband portray how wonderful his wife is and how precious she is to him. He wants the world to know there is only one woman for him and it is her. My dad said the best way to read this passage is to read it together with 1 Corinthians 13.

    Here is the quick version from the “The Message”: “Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. Love never dies.”

    So, what us men must do, is to celebrate the women in our lives and if there is someone special, the better…or as “The Message” puts it in Proverbs 31:31 “Give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises!” Yes, festoon her, they deserve nothing less.

  12. Jimmy says:

    Martha was like the Proverbs 31 woman, but Christ told her to cool it and told her she would be better to be more like her sister Mary, who sat at his feet apparently doing fuck all. Luke 10.

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