Different cultures value different traits for men and women. In Mongolia where my family once lived, humility is a highly esteemed trait for women, according to tradition. Other cultures might esteem beauty, intelligence, or education. What are the traits our Creator calls women and wives to pursue?
A gentle and quiet spirit fits with Peter's overall promotion of lives that are sober-minded and meek.
1 Peter 3:3-4 provides helpful answers. The beauty industry may be responsible for some of the unhealthy pressure that women feel to be outwardly beautiful. In Peter's day, the expectations included ″outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes″ (v. 3). But again, what sort of beauty does God admire? Verse 4 reveals it is ″your inner self, the unfading (literally, ″imperishable″) beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight″ (v. 4).
What is a gentle and quiet spirit? First, ″gentle″ can also be translated as ″meek″ and is the opposite of being harsh or tyrannical. It is a trait that both men and women are to pursue, since it is used to describe Jesus who is ″gentle and humble in heart″ (Matthew 11:29). Though our world might reward self-assertiveness and even ruthlessness, gentleness is a wonderfully disarming trait of mature Christians. Gentle people are safe to approach, and a wife's gentleness contributes much to marital harmony.
Second, ″quiet″ refers to a tranquil, peaceful existence or attitude, as one who is at rest (see 1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:11). To lack quietness could mean being disturbed, reactive, and frightened, which is to forget God's calming sovereignty. God's intention is that wives ″not give way to fear″ (1 Peter 3:6). It can be scary for a woman to submit to a husband. As one woman shared, ″If I was afraid my husband will take advantage of my submission, I might react by resisting his leadership and fighting for my rights.″ Fear makes submission much harder.
Peter seems to be thinking of this gentle and quiet spirit within the context of marriage, in particular. He mentions in verse 5 the ″holy women of the past″, including Sarah, who submitted to their husbands. Sarah called Abraham her ″lord″ (Genesis 18:12). Perhaps with Sarah's culture in mind, Peter does not say that Christian wives should do the same today. Yet the principle of submission to one's husband, however it might look in your culture and time, is to be the enduring attribute of Christian wives.
A gentle and quiet spirit fits with Peter's overall promotion of lives that are sober-minded and meek. Our lives and marriages are enriched by the knowledge that the Lord is in control of all things.