Why I Cover My Head


“But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.”

This passage, the third through fifteenth verses of the eleventh chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, is a “famous” section of Scripture, in my mind. Those of you who, like me, were born into and brought up in the conservative Anabaptist culture, could likely recite at least parts of it from memory, while others who live in parts of the world uninhabited by the “Plain People” and unaffected by their theology and practices may be completely unfamiliar with it. If you associate with the latter camp and wish to read more about the age-old societal tradition of the practice of head-covering, here are a few resources (that I don’t necessarily 100% endorse, but that will be relevant to your study): The Head Covering Movement, this article on Christianity Today, and this Mennonite discussion forum …and of course, there’s always Wikipedia.

As a young child, I knew without question that when I came of age (or when I gained church membership, as the case was in my family and church) I would begin to wear my hair “up” under the traditional, uniform Mennonite “veiling.” As a young teenager, I rebelled against the stigma that went along with this visible nonconformity to and separation from “the world” (non-believers). As a young adult, I wrestled (and still do) with the uncertainty in my own heart, the expectations of the people I loved, and the Holy Spirit’s touch on my mind and spirit.

I want to emphasize, before I [quite vulnerably] reveal my heart on this controversial issue, that first and foremost, my belief is that my position is deeply personal. I hope with all my might that this post does not come across as soapbox-y, because I do not and cannot know whether or if the path I have chosen is “right” or “best” or “necessary” for you or anyone else. (If I felt that way, I might have titled this “Why Our Heads Should Be Covered” or “Why Head Covering is Important/Right/Biblical” or something of that nature.) What I do know, is that the path I have chosen IS right, good, and necessary for ME.

I cover my head because I feel the Spirit has revealed to me, through the scripture quoted above, that as Christ is Man’s “head,” Man is my head, and having my head uncovered dishonors Man. As a married woman, this concept most practically manifests itself in the relationship I have with Caleb, my husband. So by wearing some sort of fabric over some part of my head or face or hair, I am reminding myself of my proper place under my husband’s authority, who in turn is under the authority of Christ.

>> I know this idea is not a popular one. But for those of us who have pledged our allegiance to a Heavenly Kingdom and chosen to walk the narrow path, it is the unpopular ideas and expectations that we have committed ourselves to and for, not, of course, for the sake of merely being different, but for the sake of the barefoot Nazarene whose upside-down purposes compelled those who knew Him to follow. <<

My stance may be considered extreme. But the following excerpt from Leslie Ludy’s Set-Apart Femininity quieted that doubt for me years ago, and is still a good reminder:

“When it comes to pouring out all we possess in radical abandon to the King of all kings, there is no such thing as being too extreme. Nothing we offer to Him out of a heart of loving devotion is ever a wasted sacrifice.”

I know I am not the only woman who struggles to honor her husband’s leadership in the family and home. I also know that my outgoing, opinionated, and somewhat over-achieving personality includes an additional tendency toward independence and self-righteousness. The headband, beanie, scarf or hat that I don before I leave the house each day serves as a visible reminder for me that I am not my own, nor do I want to be.

There are many opinions on the whys, whens, wheres, and hows of head-covering. In the heavily Mennonite-influenced community in which I continue to live, they are not uncommon topics of conversation and thought. The fleshing-out of the principle that I have chosen is different than many, but the valuing of the principle is not unique to me.

If you’ve been following along here already, you know by now that I’m doing the capsule wardrobe thing, and obviously have a bit of interest in fashion and even more of an interest in style. So how does this “extra garment” so to speak, play into that? Well…the headpiece is the main accessory in each of my outfits, and a pretty obvious one at that. Choosing it well and pulling it off takes lots of creativity, and I certainly haven’t mastered the art yet. But check out my “Covered” board on Pinterest for some styles + looks I’m currently loving.

I definitely don’t want to start any riots, but I also don’t at all mind a healthy, inspiring debate, either. So if you’ve got words to throw in here, fire away in the comments. 🙂 I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the subject of covering, if you have any!

18 thoughts on “Why I Cover My Head

  1. I love this, Melanie. I dont 100% agree (although I’m still figuring out what I believe here), but I love the courage you have to speak out and the way you shared your beleifs, but didn’t try to make others have to agree.

  2. Melanie, I love what you have written, but, even more, love the Godly woman you are becoming! Now, that sounds like you weren’t one before—what I want to say, I guess, is that I love you!

  3. I extremely enjoyed reading this, Melanie. It is so well-written! A lot of my questions have been answered and I feel inspired to learn more. Thank you so much for your work, honesty, sensitivity and trust.

  4. I’m really enjoying your blog, but this post specifically caught my attention. This topic is often controversial and negative, but I’ve been blessed to read your testimony of how you’ve applied it and why. Thanks for being bold and sharing! 🙂

  5. Please forgive me – I do not mean to distract from the point of the article or go off on a bunny trail here, but I am curious, in your studies what conclusion you drew in regards to whether the men always should leave their heads uncovered? Or perhaps you didn’t delve into that since you are a woman, which would be quite understandable!! 🙂 But whenever this topic is raised, I always find myself frustrated and secretly grappling with it.

    I see a lot of very well written articles addressing understanding the application for the women, and I agree with the majority of the points. But I have to confess I do find it slightly irking, in a passage that addresses both men and women, that it feels like the men’s side is rarely (if ever) addressed in our sermons, etc.
    What does it look like for men to honor and follow this passage as well? Is it right for them to obey it only when it is convenient and practical for them, and when it is impractical (due to weather conditions, etc) to completely disregard it? I’m not saying they should or they shouldn’t, and certainly do not want to pass judgment on anyone at ALL but it is something I often wonder about and feels like as Anabaptists in general we aren’t very balanced on this issue…

    And I guess I tend to feel like when I’m explaining to an unbeliever what I believe about it, that the gap in consistency has to be obvious to them with us practicing women covering at all times and men uncovered only when it is convenient. I struggle with it so much, and it feels like whenever I’m asked about it I cannot build a strong “case” (not that I’m actually arguing) because of the inconsistency… It just really feels like I’m presenting a feeble exposition of the passage.

    Anyways, so sorry, I did not mean to go off and rant at you! And I don’t even know you! 🙂 But was just curious if you have any thoughts on the subject from having studied it so recently… and if not that’s totally fine, too. 🙂 I just often raise this question when I hear people have been studying this passage because I really value their input…

    • Hi! Thank you so much for this response! I very much appreciate your feedback, and your insight.

      I admit that while the men’s side of this principle is something I have tried to think through in the past, it wasn’t at the front of my mind as I wrote this post, and it’s not something I thought to address.

      I will say, with regards to your mention of practicality, that I don’t always cover my head when it’s unpractical, either. I am not one who wears a covering while sleeping, or while swimming or something of that nature, or constantly while just at home alone or with my husband. I do try to always cover in public or while in the presence of people other than close family. So for me personally to draw a line in the sand, insisting that my husband never wear a hat would be inconsistent (for us) as well.

      I hope it came through in my post that I tend towards the viewpoint of following the “spirit of the law rather than the letter.” I choose to cover my head daily simply because I need the reminder! 🙂 The temptation to not cover, for me, comes when I am struggling to make it “look right.” (Honest confession: I care far too much about my outward appearance and what others see when they look at me!)

      For my husband, Caleb, wearing a hat (most of the time) is for physical protection. If he would be wearing a hat in order to “look good” — then I could see some inconsistency there, in our belief.

      I think when we try too hard to spell out the right way to honor a scriptural commandment, we err by focusing on on the law itself rather than the intention behind it. I feel that what the Spirit is asking of me has more to do with my attitude towards the principle of headship and coming under the authority of Man and of Christ, and less to do with when, where, and how I cover my head.

      That being said, you certainly have given me some food for thought and I imagine Caleb and I will be discussing this further sometime soon. 🙂 Thanks again for writing, and I hope you have a wonderful day!

  6. I know you are being very careful about what you say so as to not offend anyone. In my community none of the women cover their heads – it is regarded as unnecessary and out of date. I have studied the subject intensively and am convinced that women must cover their heads. It needs to be done during religious activities – I do not believe that they need to do it all the time – the inverse for men.
    A woman’s long hair is her glory and she must cover her glory when she prays – it does not imply hats. Their hair must be covered in whichever way suits them. Hats usually don’t cover the hair. The face can be open and need not be covered.
    In fact I see it as so serious that women who refuse to cover their heads are in rebellion against their husbands and therefore are also in rebellion against God. The logical conclusion is that they are placing their salvation on the line – it may just be that they will not be saved (Matt 7:21-23; Luke 6:46 etc).
    This is a very serious matter and you are doing well to speak out in favor of it.
    The Lord Bless you.

    • Thanks for your input! Though we obvious disagree on some of the terminology and its interpretation, I value your insight. I believe salvation is a matter of the heart and that the Lord values our devotion to Him, in its varied forms. Be blessed!

      • In the Bible when The Lord’s people were disobedient to His Word’s instruction oftentimes the Lord removed His protection from them and allowed them to be overcome by their enemies til they returned to Him.. This could be what is happening as the Western church plays fast and loose with God’s Word .A seemingly small thing like Christian female headcovering could in God’s eyes be very important as disobedience, for the male(her head) as for the female. Divine equality doesn’t mean no difference which the so called church appears to have adopted in blessing same sex so called marriages and unions which practice the Lord calls an abomination. Another religion appears to be flooding into our societies whose females,old and young alike appear to have no qualms whatever about covering their heads.

        Love in the Lord Jesus

  7. Hi Melanie!
    I followed you over here from Alicia’s blog. I really enjoyed your guest post, and have enjoyed reading through some of your blog now. You are inspiring! I am looking forward to reading more as you pop up on my blog-feed 🙂
    And I just wanted to say that I sooooo appreciate the spirit behind your post written here. I stopped wearing a covering when I married my husband. He has no conviction for it, and I feel uncertain about it. As such i decided to stop wearing it because I didn’t feel like I could give a good answer to people when they asked me about it…almost like i was lying to them because I wasn’t settled in my own heart that I believed what I was telling them.
    Anyways, just wanted to say hi and thank you for the fun, beautiful, and inspiring space that you’ve created here in the blog world 🙂

    • Hi! Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving such kind words.

      I’ve often said that to force someone to cover when they feel no personal conviction for it is a desecration of something that is inherently sacred. So, I applaud your bravery in doing what you felt was right.

      Thanks again for the encouragement!

  8. Melanie, thank you for this post! It was beautifully written and very encouraging! I’ve been struggling with this passage for a while now, particularly concerning whether or not I should cover my head as an unmarried woman. I’m leaning more towards doing so. You mentioned that you started veiling when you “came of age.” Any more thoughts concerning head covering for single women?

  9. I just want to add to my previous comments. Whenever we look at this issue we see that women must cover their heads as being the main issue. Someone who researched the history of this carefully came to the conclusion that the real issue Paul as addressing was that men should not cover their heads. Although the history of Jewish men covering their heads when they pray is unclear, this could be seen as a confirmation of this view. What seems to have been the case is that the men in those days wore togas and when the men went to pray to their idol gods they pulled their togas over their heads when they prayed. In this passage Paul is also telling the men why they should not be doing this and why it is right for women to cover their heads.
    This really is no trivial matter and women who mean business with God should seriously consider covering their heads. None of us can expect to be saved if we are willfully disobedient to God. Disobedience is rebellion against God and no rebel will enter the kingdom of heaven.

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