The Difference Between Compliance and Submission Comes Down to This

We all do it: behave when being watched.

And this is nothing new. Glaucon, the cynic in Plato’s Republic, told Socrates that . Now researchers are finally putting teeth to this claim.

Early last year a group of scientists from Newcastle University ran an experiment where they in a school cafeteria. They also hung up posters of flowers. The scientists counted the number of people who threw away their trash versus those who didn’t.

Twice as many people cleaned up after themselves when the big eye was watching when it wasn’t.

Compliance and Submission Are Synonymous

That is compliance. But it is also submission.

See, if you snooped around a dictionary you’d come up with similar descriptions for each term.

The act of conforming, acquiescing, or yielding.

A tendency to yield readily to others, especially in a weak and subservient way.

Cooperation or obedience.

To give over or yield to the power or authority of another (often used reflexively).

To allow oneself to be subjected to some kind of treatment

There is, however, a difference when it comes down to Jesus Christ. Let me explain.

Where Compliance and Submission Are NOT Synonymous

A good friend of mine pointed out after I wrote The Joy of Being a Slave to Christ and The Criminal as Metaphor for Religious Hypocrite that it seemed like a good time to spell out the difference between submission and compliance.

I seemed to be suggesting differences. Why not make it explicit? Okay, so how about this: the slave of Christ submits while the religious hypocrite complies.

For the neatnicks in the house, here’s how it plays out in two columns:

(See The White Bucket Is a Stark Reminder of Our Wicked Hearts to understand what I mean by “white bucket.”)

I confess, I am bending the denotation (the direct or explicit meaning) of the two terms for my own purposes. I think that is okay because the connotations (what people generally think about a word) are different.

Otherwise my friend wouldn’t have seen a difference. Nor would I have subconciously suggested a difference. I mean  it just feels like compliance and submission refer to two different types of behavior, no?

Share your thoughts. Brutal and all.

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2 thoughts on “The Difference Between Compliance and Submission Comes Down to This

  1. al H

    Great post, D, but the last two items in the right hand column need tweaking:

    “Wonders if his obedience is enough”– enough for what? Wonders if the One requiring obedience is satisfied, pleased… Not pleased enough to grant a reward, for the reward is already being enjoyed: to know Him who has called us to obedience. Rather, whether there is more I can offer to further bless Him who has blessed me with the ability to obey Him.

    “Behaves even when not being watched”–> Sometimes forgets that there is no such thing as *not being watched* but, immediately upon realizing the error of misconduct, repents of such behavior and rejoices in the forgiveness freely given [although purchased at the immeasurable cost of the blood of God’s Son].

    Hope that’s not too brutal, Bro… ????

    1. DemianFarnworth

      That’s not brutal at all, sir. I was struggling with “wonders if his obedience is enough,” and knew that I was sacrificing precision for the sake of brevity–which is not always good. To be honest, I knew there was more to say, but I couldn’t articulate. I was stumped! I’ll go back and refine.


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