What’s the difference between “being a doormat” and “submitting”?

    Over in “The “Why” of a DW’s Submissiveness” there have been several of us wives mention having an example of a “doormat” in our childhood, and how that had an effect on us as women and wives.

    There was one who said that it takes strength to be a doormat…. I am not so sure about that. I do believe there is a strength in submitting, but I also think there are certain personalities that make “being a doormat” the easiest thing to do.  It can be a weak “man’s” out…. “peace at all cost.”  For these persons, it would actually take strength to stand up for themselves or others, because that is what is unnatural for them.

    I even once heard a pastor say (which I disagree with), “We (Christians) are called to be doormats, because Jesus was.” …. um, no.   Jesus was no doormat.  He willing laid down His life, but no one took it from Him.  He was meek, “power under control”….not weak.


    What are differences you see between the two?  Or, do you see them as the same thing and why?


    I absolutely love your definition of meek!! Power under control! Perfectly describes Jesus.

    on December 23, 2019.

    I do not know if anyone has ever heard of Jordan Peterson, but he has said the same thing about the term meek. I have found it to be a fantastic and accurate definition of the word in the context of the Bible.

    on December 23, 2019.

    I have not heard of him. I am thinking I originally heard that definition by Beth Moore… but it’s been years, so I am not positive.

    on December 23, 2019.
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    16 Answer(s)

      @olafthewise, I have been reading all your answers and getting a picture of your marriage, and your resentment and bitterness comes through. In regards to this specific answer, I have no doubt your wife has her own issues, and control being a big one…. but all you mention about yourself seems great, but one question I have is, how passive are you? I know men can be all you are in life, and be passive in the marriage. A passive man feels very “unsafe”, especially to a strong woman, which makes it very hard to respect, no matter his “resume”, and that’s why control can kick in. Some kickstarter questions, if needed, to know if you are passive…. Do you do all you can to “keep the peace”? Do you ever disagree and correct or stand up against your wife? Do you naturally put her in the lead by default…meaning, constantly asking her what she wants and letting her make the decisions for the kids and family?

      To be clear, two wrongs don’t make a right, and I am not condoning your wife’s sin and wrong behavior. But, it doesn’t do anyone any good if they are blind to what’s in their own eye and aren’t willing to look at themselves.

      Under the stars Answered on March 25, 2020.

      This!!! Well said SC!

      on March 25, 2020.
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        I’m still trying to figure out what submission looks like in a concrete sense. It’s a tricky road to walk.

        I do know what a doormat is, because I see it regularly. It’s deferring to another’s wishes at all times, despite one’s personal needs (as opposed to desires), and despite one’s personal skills. It can require a certain degree of strength, but it can also be a lazy way to shirk responsibility. It can also be a result of abuse. I’ve seen all 3 cases occur. I have noticed that the times it is done with strength, it’s largely in a D/s situation where the dominant partner is solely focused on the needs of the submissive. Both partners are focused on each other. But I think that can be tough to maintain over time because of its intensity.

        I think the doormat situation is dangerous, and does not allow for full realization of the talents that God bestows on either partner. The submissive’s strengths can be discounted, but the dominant also doesn’t learn how to be a true servant leader.

        Blanket on a secluded beach! Answered on December 23, 2019.
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          Very well said, SC. I agree with every word, describing a doormat.

          A doormat isn’t attractive. But, can a wife be a doormat if the husband isn’t a control freak? Or vice versa?

          A doormat makes NO decisions on their own. And in some cases, goes nowhere on their own. In my growing up, my mom had to ask my dad on every single decision, right down to little decisions on ‘girl matters’.

          I heard 2 older door mats once discussing something. They had to go together, to meet their husbands, who were coming home from a business trip. They left, so that they would be waiting for their husbands a minimum of half an hour. One said, can you imagine if the men arrived, and we were not there?? I thought to myself, it needs to happen once in your lifetime, that you arrive 1 minute after those men!! And that, just once, they find out how it feels to wait!

          I could leave many examples, but as I’m writing, I think it boils down to the heart. A doormat takes submission so far, that its turned into an idol, of sorts.

          After we were married, I asked my DH when he was going to go thro my closets and tell me which he didn’t like and that I should get rid of. He thought I was crazy and wondered what was up. I said I just thought thats what men did!

          My husband doesn’t want me to ask him every move I make. He doesn’t want me to ask him every time I need new shoes, etc. He tells me I can make those decisions myself.

          An older pastor couple that we know well, are so nice to be with, nice to each other, and a lot of fun! They are older already. I never think of her as submissive. They are kind, but tease each other. I have seen her playfully slap him. I saw him put down his foot once with her and it was pretty funny. So, I’m fairly certain she is submissive, but its not obvious and glaring, if anyone knows what I mean. She said she is in charge of the house, and he is in charge of the business.

          All I know, is that my DH is vastly different from most men I knew, when growing up.

          Under the stars Answered on December 23, 2019.
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            This is such a touchy subject. I think it depends a lot on the attitude of both people whether it is submission or dominance.

            Imagine first of all that the other person doesn’t have a bad attitude toward me nor do they seek to dominate me. Yet, for example, DW might think I’m being a doormat to that person because of the degree to which I have either humbled myself or submitted to that person, but I don’t feel that I’m a doormat at all because I feel like I’m serving that person. Or on the other hand, my attitude toward the situation could be such that I’m feeling sorry for myself and I “decide” to feel like a doormat or interpret the situation to be that of being a doormat, even if the other person isn’t intending it to be that.  (I.e. they are just living as a confident, assertive person, and I might feel like a doormat – when perhaps I shouldn’t or don’t need to. )

            Or if the person is seeking to doormat me (Can I make that into a verb?), again I have at least two types of attitudes to assume – one that i succumb to being a doormat or that I override that feeling and determine that I am not.

            So, in a very basic situation where there are two people and each has only two types of attitudes to take (I know there are many more), we come up with 4 different scenarios . And there are so many other factors involved.

            Part of what I’m getting at is, for me whether I’m being doormated or not, is pretty complicated and almost becomes a case-by-case type of situation.

            Under the stars Answered on December 23, 2019.
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              A “doormat” to me, and I am using language from a wife’s perspective, but I am very aware that this can be applicable to a man as well:

              • It’s submission to an extreme, it’s not really submitting (volunteeringly placing oneself under another), it’s more subordination or being subservient.
              • She has no opinion she is willing or allowed to share.
              • There is no room for her own emotions or desires, it’s all about him/others.
              • She walks on eggshells.
              • She leaves her children/others vulnerable to unfair, and sometimes harsh, treatment.
              • She may practice complete selflessness, but feeds the selfishness of others, even at the cost of the innocent (the children).

              A “doormat” gives the message and feel that she is inferior and he is superior.  Love is lacking.  Submitting is not about inferiority/superiority.  In actuality, a wife ought to be cherished as “a weaker vessel”.  In actuality, it’s about showing honor and love, both directions.


              Under the stars Answered on December 23, 2019.

              You just described (one of) my mother(s). Praise God, she is turning to Him in a deeper way in recent years to learn her own value and worth and to claim her dignity after living so long as a (metaphorical) punching bag for a man who she (even still) advocates, with grace and compassion (two of her brightest and most beautiful qualities). She has become so strong and is no longer a doormat, but my goodness, what an unpleasant life she had for many years.

              on December 23, 2019.
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                @Brynna, “But, can a wife be a doormat if the husband isn’t a control freak?”

                I lean towards “yes”, just from looking at my mother.  I mentioned personality being at play, because my mother has always been a “people pleaser”, with her parents and with her siblings.  It may not look quite as drastic, but unless the other person is being very intentional and sensitive to that type of person, it’s easy to just slip into using them for our own benefit.  When you need something, do you ask the kid who will just get up and do it (out of fear), or the one who pushes back a little?  Often we (all of us) will go on the path of least resistance, which means those who want to please, who fear displeasure, will often be “walked on” and used.  Then if you mix in someone who is more selfish and believe they are “the center of their universe”, it can be turned into an abuse of power.

                I believe it was @OWM who mentioned the attitude or heart behind it.  In the beginning at least, it often isn’t love that is the motivator in those with these kind of personalities, but a fear.

                I will also say that my husband, by nature, is this kind of person.  It was what was modeled to him by his own parents, his father being very passive while his mom “ruled” things.  It is still very easy (natural) for him to slip into letting me lead by default.  I have to be intentional to keep placing him back into that place of leadership….by keeping some opinions to myself, by not making decisions for him and giving him the time to process through his thoughts to make his own mind up, and by not giving any kind of push back unless I feel more strongly about something.

                Under the stars Answered on December 23, 2019.

                Ya. So much has to do with FOO and temperaments!

                on December 23, 2019.
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                  >There was one who said that it takes strength to be a doormat….

                  You got that wrong – I said “the world” tells them they are a doormat:

                  The world tells them they are a doormat, but truly they are stronger because being an undisciplined quarrelsome wife is certainly much easier.

                  I don’t want to give the word doormat any credibility whatsoever because I believe the entire doormat idea is from the devil.  Let’s think about this.  Most of the above problems are a husband doing something wrong.  How should a Godly wife react to that?  Doormat theology says they should stand up to their husband and try to teach him what is right!  The bible however teaches otherwise.

                  I will say it this way.  It takes strength to be obedient especially when it is hard.

                  Many wives use the idea of “not being a doormat” to alter their marriage into something that is not what God says is God honoring in scripture (which is why I think it is a devil trick).

                  On the floor Answered on December 23, 2019.

                  If a wife, or anyone, is operating and living out of a “fear of man”, they are not being obedient to the Lord, even if their outward appearance may seem more like it…I believe that is deception itself.

                  on December 23, 2019.

                  PS – I also wanted to say, thank you for clarifying your stance.

                  on December 23, 2019.

                  My stance is that we need to be very critical of trusting our hearts/feelings regarding allowing them to redefine what the Word says is good.  In the end, we usually end up going our own way that is not obedient to His ways and we foolishly justify it telling ourselves we had a good reason.  I don’t want to see any wife not being lifted, loved, cared for, listened to, but we can’t redefine what God says is right because some husbands are sinners.  He knew they would be sinners and still designed marriage the way He wanted to for His purpose and His glory.

                  on December 23, 2019.

                  Honest question – do you define a line that crosses from submission/obedience to enabling abuse?

                  on December 23, 2019.

                  Do you mean on the part of the wife?  Absolutely there is a line, but that line is not one that invalidates biblical teaching.  Husbands are perfectly within biblical bounds to tell their wife to do something, and perfectly within biblical bounds to direct their wife to work as hard as they do (treating their wife’s flesh the same as their own).  Is there a fear that if a wife is too submissive that it will lead to abuse?  The bible says a wife is a daughter of Sarah if she does what is right and does not give way to fear.  I tend to think if the husband is an abuser that that is going to come out irregardless of how she submits.

                  on December 23, 2019.

                  Thank you for clarifying. I agree with you. The husband will be an abuser regardless of what the wife does, if that is his inclination. I’ve just seen too many people who have said he’s within his Biblical rights to abuse her if she isn’t submitting properly. It’s a concern of mine.

                  I agree that both partners need to work equally to support the marriage, the family, and the household. That may look differently for each partner, but there should be a balance. That does fall under treating one’s wife as the Bush’s own flesh.

                  on December 24, 2019.

                  *one’s own flesh. My autocorrect has issues and I only access this site on the mobile version.

                  on December 24, 2019.
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                    @Olaf, what SC said is gold! And it seems to me you hit the nail on the head in your last paragraph BUT it seems that a lot of what you’ve written the past few days hasn’t been consistent with you leading in your home, and you’ve allowed your wife to dictate what happens or doesn’t happen without discussion and she has seemingly taken over the leadership vacuum in your household. Ultimately, I think the best thing to do would be some solid Christian counseling to learn about the unhealthy ways the two of you seem to relate. You’ve had a long marriage and seems to me some outside help to evaluate and get tools to rebuild the way you relate so you can both finish strong and well together.

                    Under the stars Answered on March 25, 2020.
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                      @Tracker,  Is there an assumption with your comment that every marriage has an understanding of Christ and the church and how marriage relates, and they “accepted” those roles?

                      Neither of my parents were believers when they got married.  My mother didn’t become a believer until 5 years in and is a 1st generation Christian, so she had no Godly example before her, and my dad… well, he was baptized 15ish years in, and he’s probably saved, but hasn’t matured much in his walk.

                      The situation I just shared also points to how we can’t “spiritualize” a woman’s submission to “obedience”, when there was no God or Word in their life to be obedient to.

                      Under the stars Answered on December 23, 2019.
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                        One more thing to add to what you said SC:

                        >Jesus was no doormat. He willing laid down His life, but no one took it from Him. He was meek, “power under control”….not weak.

                        I agree with this 100% and this really embodies what I am trying to say.  It took strength for Him to be obedient to the Father just as it takes strength for a wife to be obedient to her husband.  We should assume that both husbands and wives will make mistakes and grace needs to be offered, but we have to embrace that this order is what God wishes.  I believe that both husband and wife are blessed by it and God is honored by our obedience to doing it His way.

                        On the floor Answered on December 24, 2019.
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