Last week I posted about one of my boys thinking that girls should go first (note: this would be done out of love for God, and, being a fallen creature, one would not expect him to actually do this, routinely, especially not when his sisters would be the ones benefitting). My sister commented that she had read an article where the consensus among four young women was that chivalry was creepy.
I wasn't raised to think I needed a man (or a boy) to open doors for me. I certainly never expected a man (or a boy) to stand when I walked into the room. But I don't think I ever thought chivalry was creepy.
As my little group approaches doors, I'll say, "Where are my gentlemen?" It's my way of reminding the boys to move forward and open the door and hold it open for the rest of us. My girls are not usually strong enough to open heavier doors, but I do encourage them to hold them open as well. I think the main point in these exercises is to teach all of my children to be situationally aware, to be polite to others, and to help out. I'm sure that mother carrying a baby can open the door all by herself, but how nice to have a considerate person offer assistance.
Is there anything more annoying than a door slamming in your face just as you reach it?
I think that the issue of chivalry being perceived as creepy is also a matter of lack of humility. I know I am certainly guilty of this. It is very difficult to accept help. Having a man open a door for me is polite. I can accept good manners. But having a man or even a woman offer to help carry something? No, sir! Thank you very much. I can manage just fine. This is pride in the worst way.
We have a big dog, so I frequently find myself in the dog food aisle, very pregnant or with a baby in a sling, wrestling a 40 pound bag of food onto the bottom of the cart. Almost always, somebody stops and asks me if I need some assistance. If I could take a step back, I might see myself looking absolutely ridiculous as I insist that it's no trouble for me at all to get that bag loaded in without banging the baby's head on the cart or dropping her out of the sling. Who am I kidding?
I've been trying hard over the last few months to supress that instinct to decline help. Yet, even in my acceptance of assistance that ugly pride rears its head. There now, I say to myself. They can feel that they did a good deed by helping me. It isn't me who needs help so much as they need to feel good about themselves, right?
It's a long road. Fortunately, I discovered that the 20 pound bag of dog food is cheaper per ounce than the 40 pounder!
I'm learning that as I work on humility, I need to teach my children not just how to help others but also how to accept help graciously. In The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis echoes this in an example of a young man struck down with an incurable disease who is tended lovingly by his wife. "The man who can take this sweetly, who can receive all and give nothing without resentment...in such a case to receive is harder and perhaps more blessed than to give."
As I begin Lent, I can reflect on receiving forgiveness when I have nothing to give in return. Am I humble enough to accept the gift?