7 Types of Unsubmissive People

In this morning’s sermon I gave a taxonomy of seven different expressions of unsubmissiveness. Wondering what others you might add to the list. I had in mind the dynamics of a church community… but if you are prone to any of these tendencies, they’re likely expressed in all kinds of other situations as well.

  1. The Spiritual Teenager – These people don’t know enough to be rebellious; but they’re rebellious anyway. Proverbs calls them “naïve.”
  2. The Knucklehead – The kind of person who always learns the hard way. Proverbs calls them fools (Prov. 1:7).
  3. The Contrarian – The person who has to play ‘devil’s advocate’ in every situation.
  4. The Postmodern – Convinced that all authority is about power plays and oppressing/subjugating the weak. Usually end up being an authority unto themselves, which is convenient.
  5. The Patronizer – Common tendency of older people. Dismissive toward younger leaders (really, toward leaders in general); have a pat-on-the-head, “isn’t-it-nice-what-you’re-doing” sort of spirit.
  6. The Exception – Thinks she’s the exception to the rule, therefore she shouldn’t have to go through the same processes that others do.
  7. The Mole – unsubmissive in his heart, but doesn’t have the courage to express it. Acts compliant in public but undermines authority in private through gossip, slander, bitterness, and envy. Incredibly destructive to a community.

What additional expressions of unsubmissiveness do you see in your own heart or in others that are worth adding to the list?


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  1. The Theorist–he’s totally on board with authority and accountability in principle and on paper, but is less gung ho when faced with tough questions and transparent living.

    Me–Contrarian, guilty as charged. You were reading from my playbook, Bob! Thanks for the challenging message.

  2. I haven’t heard the sermon yet, but it looks like you’re defining submission as active rather than passive. If submission is actively coming under someone else or a greater plan, then I’ll add this one which may be a subset of the Patronizer.

    The Yes Man – Doesn’t know enough to ask questions, and automatically assumes the surface is the substance. Seems like a great person to have around until there is a disagreement between two people this person can not say no to. This person then goes into major scramble mode to keep everyone happy. The focus is on “going along” not “staying on mission.”

  3. As I was listening to the sermon yesterday, I told myself I “didn’t really” fit into any of the categories. Does that make me The Exception by default?

  4. 1,3 and 7

    Ugh, it’s not pretty looking into my flesh most times. Not pretty and not fun, but without being pointed back to it, my opinion of myself gets falsely puffed up and Christ receives less glory from my life.

    I see the spiritual teenager in me when I jump to conclusions and assume I know better than those in authority with very little actual evidence of that being true.

    I see the contrarian in me when I deem myself as too good to do certain activities that have been asked of me.

    I see the mole in me when I think there’s a problem and instead of approaching someone who can do something about it, I complain to my wife and friends.

    I really think all of these things come down to pride for me. I attempt to make myself feel superior by jumping to conclusions, disagreeing, and complaining. A lot of the time (not just in a church context) I don;t really even want what I’m complaining about to be changed! Either that or I want to be the “hero” by saving the context I’m in from itself (whether it needs saving or not).

    “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” That’s just beautiful.

  5. Haven’t listened to the sermon yet, but I think passive unsubmissiveness is worth including and so would add

    The Non-Committer

    This person sidesteps authority by not formally committing—be it to community, marriage or a church body. A cousin to “The Exception”…having never gotten on board, the rules don’t apply.

  6. 1 and 3 probably describe me the best out of those, but my big one is not up there. My big one is probably the Theorist type that Ian mentioned. I have a problem where mentally I can be totally on board and even excited, but when I realize the amount of work involved or stuff I’d have to give up, I don’t actively say “I’m out!” but I just become less involved until I’m off by myself doing what I want to do. This laziness could probably be a subset or motivation for any type. When submission takes work, the lazy people are out. So you could call me a Lazy Theorist.

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