Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Discretion – An Attribute of Godly Womanhood

As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.” Proverbs 11:22

This verse from Proverbs is one of many in Scripture that speak directly to or about women. And in this particular verse, there is a contrast presented between outward beauty and the inward beauty of godly character. 

While physical beauty is what is applauded and sought for by the world today, in the scope of what is true and genuine, it really has no value. Another verse in Proverbs stresses this point greatly:

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).

According to Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, ‘vain’ means “empty, worthless; having no substance, value or importance.” And this is the word that is applied to physical beauty . . . it is indeed vain. 

But a woman who fears the Lord and one who is adorned with virtue and godly character, including this discretion, shines with an inward beauty that comes from but one source . . . her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

A physically beautiful woman, however, is likened to a ring of gold in a pig’s snout if she lacks the virtue of discretion. Would the ring of gold stand out as a beautiful object on the swine? As it is dragged through the mud while the pigs wallow, does it shine forth beauty? The answer is, no. This ring of gold is not pleasing and brings no beauty to the pigs . . . and such is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.

If we look further into this word discretion, we find that the Hebrew word for it, according to The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, simply means “judgment, discretion, discernment.” While judgment is a word that is familiar to most, the words discretion and discernment are not as well-known, nor as well-understood. 

The defining of these words also brings a much deeper and proper understanding to the more common word of judgment. Once again utilizing Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, we find that discretion and discernment have deep implications . . .

Discernment: The act of discerning; also the power or faculty of the mind, by which it distinguishes one thing from another, as truth from falsehood, virtue from vice; acuteness of judgment; power of perceiving differences of things or ideas, and their relations and tendencies.

Discretion is: Prudence, or knowledge and prudence; that discernment which enables a person to judge critically of what is correct and proper, united with caution; nice discernment and judgment, directed by circumspection, and primarily regarding one’s own conduct.

And since discretion is defined, in part, by the word prudence, we also may benefit from examining that definition also:

Prudence: implies caution in deliberating and consulting on the most suitable means to accomplish valuable purposes, and the exercise of sagacity [quickness or acuteness of discernment] in discerning and selecting them. Prudence differs from wisdom in this, that prudence implies more caution and reserve than wisdom, or is exercised more in foreseeing and avoiding evil, than in devising and executing that which is good. It is sometimes mere caution or circumspection.

Both definitions of discretion and prudence use the word circumspection which means: “Caution; attention to all the facts and circumstances of a case, and to the natural or probable consequences of a measure, with a view to the correct course of conduct or to avoid danger.”

When reading these definitions that aid in defining godly womanhood, we see that there is much wisdom and knowledge involved with them. It is examining situations and ideas to determine truth from error. It is seeing and determining right from wrong. It is judging one’s own actions and words to see if they are according to God’s Word. 

It is not ‘jumping in with both feet’ so to speak, but approaching issues, decisions, and other such things with caution accompanied with “wisdom from above” (James 3:17). And this caution and wisdom is not in human strength, feelings or emotions, or ideas, but must be founded fully and completely upon the word of God to truly be classified as discretion.

Discretion, as with any other godly attribute, comes from the Lord. It is through His working in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit that discretion can be learned and attained. The Psalmist expressed this truth well when he cried to the Lord entreating Him to “Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments” (Psalm 119:66; the word 'discernment' in this verse is translated from the same Hebrew word from which discretion is translated in Proverbs 11:22).

We see that discretion finds its origin in the Lord . . . it is given by the Lord to those who seek Him. And He has promised “Seek, and you shall find” (Matthew 7:7). Discretion (or discernment) is also learned through the study and application of Scripture, which is God’s word to man. The writer of the book of Hebrews shares a powerful truth while giving a rebuke to those he was writing to:

Concerning him [referring to Christ] we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Hebrews 5:11-14

What convicting truths are found in these verses! One phrase that particularly stood out to me was “not accustomed to the word of righteousness.” Are we accustomed to, familiar with, and knowledgeable about “the word of righteousness,” God’s word to us? 

Are we practicing God’s word in our lives, practicing His truths, so that our senses are indeed “trained to discern good and evil”? Or are we choosing to remain infants partaking only of milk and not seeking to grow and mature in faith?

It is only through “the word of righteousness” and through the Lord’s working on our hearts as we seek Him, that true discretion will be borne in our hearts and lives as we mature in faith. Discretion is indeed a precious and important attribute for women to spiritually adorn themselves with. 

May each one of us truly take to heart the truths and admonition found in Proverbs 11:22: “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion” . . . and may we seek after a true and lasting inward beauty which is not only pleasing to the Lord, but brings glory to Him.

-Posted by Sarah


  1. This is really encouraging!! Especially now since I am almost 14, it counts on what I do now, that will help the future.

  2. How wonderful it is that you have realized the importance of growing and learning, Desiree! Thank you for your comment and for sharing! :)

  3. This blog has been such an inspiration to me and my children. My name is Rose and i am a SAHM who homeschool. God Bless, Rose

  4. Thank you for this beautiful written post. I pray that the Holy Spirit guides all the young women to use discernment and discretion in all situations. My daughters just got so much inspiration out of this post. God bless, Rose

  5. Welcome to our blog, Rose! And thank you so much for both of your kind and encouraging comments and for introducing yourself to us!