Back in 2014, when I first heard about the #banbossy movement, I laughed. The movement’s premise is that when little girls are called “bossy” it causes lower self-esteem and deters them from seeking leadership. I laughed again because that was certainly not my personal experience.
I come from a long, strong, and proud line of women who have been called “bossy.” I’ve heard it for so many years that the term is more of an appellation than an epithet. When my then fiancé, now husband, traveled with me to South Georgia to meet these women, he was understandably nervous after hearing me tell so many family stories. Later, when he asked how I thought the time had gone, I replied, “Oh, I knew they liked you the minute they started bossing you around. If they are telling you what to do, it means they think you belong.”
I grew up with “bossy” women and knew how to boss with the best of them. For me, it was a synonym for leadership, belonging, and action. Only after I became personally convinced that complementarianism was the best understanding for God’s design and structure between husbands and wives, did I consider how being bossy, in either perception or reality, affected my marriage and my church community.
I had to learn and apply three things: the authority of God’s word, servanthood for the beauty and edification of the Bride, and the work of sanctification.
Authority of God’s Word
First, while being bossy comes naturally to me, the authority of God’s word in my life re-orders and re-purposes my natural bents. I do not get to declare my penchant for “bossiness” as the rule for how I do things in His kingdom. Rather His word, revealing His gospel of Jesus Christ, means I am no longer ruled by my flesh, doing what I want whenever and however I want. Instead, I am led by His Spirit so that I may live for and unto Him.
“But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” Romans 8:10-11
Living by His Spirit does not come naturally to me! When you thrive off of being bossy, you easily become your own authority. Having His word as the authority for my life, rather than the natural bent of my own authority, is a lifelong process. But it is one that drives me to deeper dependence upon God so that His glory will be shown. Learning what God says about headship and helper roles challenges me to new ways of thinking and living. This is uncomfortable sometimes, but the key question for me is, “How will I respond to the authority of God’s word in my life?”
Living by His Spirit means knowing and obeying His word affects everything in how I live as a child of His kingdom—which means that whenever my will or my feelings conflict with the authority of His word, then I must submit myself to His word.
Servanthood for the Beauty and Edification of the Bride
Second, living in His kingdom means living with His other children—the very ones I would like to tell what to do, all the time! God designed His church as a covenant community where we impact and influence one another by our actions, words, and lives. Moreover, God loves His Church, calling it His Bride, and everything He does and purposes in this world or through His people is to beautify and build up His Bride.
“…just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Ephesians 5:25-27
An unchecked bossy child in the kingdom impacts and influences others, but not in a beautifying or building up manner. When I learned that God designed my strong personality for His glory, it became the motivation to apply His design in ways that glorify Him and not myself. Practically, I sought areas of service in the church for the sole purpose of beautifying and building up the Bride of Christ. This meant I was not and am not always the one in charge. Many times I am the behind the scenes person or the one of little note. With the change of heart came a desire to change how I viewed servanthood. Learning to live in relationship with others, to nurture and cultivate compassion, to serve with sacrifice and humility, are all ways to yield a bossy nature to the transformational power of the gospel.
Remember, the overarching purpose of every believer, of every church member, male or female, is to display the glory of God. Therefore, all of our service in the church is to display His glory. We show His glory every time we are willing to embrace the gospel of Christ in genuine servanthood as servant leaders.
The Work of Sanctification
Finally, is the work of sanctification—which is really just the theological name for the other two lessons. From the minute that God made me His own, His Spirit has been working to set me apart and make me more like Christ. And every circumstance of life is the laboratory for this work.
When I wrestle with the authority of God’s word regarding my own will, I am being sanctified. When I chafe at the perceived or imagined marginalization of my gifts and talents in a church community, I am being sanctified. Every providence and person is another opportunity to confront self-righteousness, pride, envy, bitterness, selfishness, and all the other unpleasantries of sin.
This is an ongoing process as the Spirit’s work in my heart brings me to confession and repentance. I have to examine my thoughts, words, and actions not only in community, but before the world. Being bossy can be its own shield to block hard questions. How much sweeter when we can see that the personality God has given us is the ways and means to display the power of His word, the beauty of His Bride, and the glorifying work of sanctification!
Lisa Hellier lives in Flowood, MS and seeks to serve the Lord at Redeemer Church in Jackson and in her service as a PCA Women’s Ministry Trainer. She is married to Jim and a mom of three sons—so she pretty much lives in the laboratory of sanctification regarding being bossy. Trusting God will receive all the glory for His completed work keeps her eyes fixed on Him.