He Said-She Said: Is Chivalry Necessary?
- 2009 1 Oct
EDITOR'S NOTE: Each He Said-She Said column features a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness, please CLICK HERE to submit (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: "A woman I was seeing told me that I didn't need to open the car door for her anymore or walk on the side closest to the street or do basically anything chivalrous at all. She said she could do it for herself and that it was not necessary. The problem is, I enjoy doing these things for a woman. I enjoy showing her that I care and that I am concerned about her protection and provision. Is there something wrong with me or is this just old-fashioned thinking? Is chivalry dead? And should I stop doing these things?"
HE SAID: First of all, I applaud you for your knowledge of these "acts of chivalry" and for your desire to carry them out. There are many men (and some women) who were never "given the memo" about these simple acts of considerate and courteous behavior toward a woman and many more who just don't care.
It seems as if we see fewer thoughtful acts of kindness being displayed toward one another. Some men have come to believe that respecting a woman is not "manly" and some women have been taught acceptance of kind gestures is a sign of weakness. It is a sad state of our society when men and women can't treat each other in a kind way without it being seen as controlling, demeaning, or improper.
I don't recall this concept in any of my biblical studies.
Opening the car door for someone or walking on the side closest to the street are not actions usually classified as being "wrong." These are typically signs you care about the person you are with, have concern for her safety, and desire to show her respect. I believe many women would accept these gestures gratefully (and surprisingly).
For her to specifically ask you to stop doing these things signals something more than not having "old-fashioned" thinking.
Some women have never received any respect for who they are. They have been put down, mistreated or not shown common decency throughout their early years in relationships with their father, brothers, boyfriends or friends. As a result, they don't know how to handle being treated in a gracious way, nor feel comfortable accepting it.
Others have worked hard and gained respect through their accomplishments, feeling as if they don't need anything done for them. They are self-sufficient, highly capable and very independent. Having a door opened for them or being protected may make them feel as if you are putting them down or diminishing their ability to do such things on their own.
Still some don't want to be seen as a "girly-girl," perceived as relatively helpless who needs and depends upon a man for things. These acts of kindness may be interpreted as a means of control, dominance, or disrespect.
In a comparable way, I have struggled with being able to ask for help, accept kind gestures and receive gifts. I find it much easier to provide assistance than to receive it.
The Lord Jesus himself said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).
However, after years of trying to "do" for others, I frequently found I was not only extending a blessing, but receiving one back when the person accepted my offering thankfully. Thereby, when I don't accept a gesture from others gratefully, I am withholding a blessing meant for the giver.
I have since tried to become more comfortable and appreciative when somebody extends themselves to me, which has allowed me to be even more thankful and understanding for the gift of eternal life that Jesus has given us.
As believers, we don't spend a lot time talking about how to receive an action or a gift graciously—not in a greedy, taking, or expectant sort of way, just being able to accept a "gift" with pleasure and thanksgiving.
The Bible speaks throughout of receiving salvation, an inheritance, a share of the crops, His promise, eternal life, etc. How can we accept these gifts with open arms if we don't learn how to accept a simple thoughtful considerate act?
For whatever reason, your friend feels uncomfortable about your actions. Use this opportunity to communicate with her asking why she may feel this way, when these feelings may have started, how it makes you feel and how you can help. Continue to be yourself in a loving and thoughtful way, yet not always having to extend these gestures at every opportunity.
If she continues to refuse, it is her dilemma (and loss), not yours.
A person who gives with a heart filled with the Spirit is offering a gift from God.
You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give (Exodus 25:2).
Chivalry is not dead.
SHE SAID: No! Don't stop "doing these things." Chivalry is most certainly NOT dead and it IS necessary. In fact, here's what some of my randomly polled female friends had to say when I showed them your question:
- A man is supposed to cherish his woman, which includes treating her special and protecting her. Ephesians 5:25 and Ephesians 5:29 address this issue.
- Women today have no idea that they are being influenced by ridiculous feminist ideas. Or maybe they are fully aware. I think it's just common courtesy. They don't do it because we CAN'T do it. They do it because it is nice. I like nice.
- The opportunity to serve the other person (even if it's just opening the door for them) is an opportunity that the Lord has given us whether we are women or not. It brings a man pleasure to do such small things for the woman. On one hand, he is serving her … and on the other hand, he is learning to take care of her.
- The issue is not about whether she can do these things for herself, it's about respecting him for doing them. It says a great deal about his character that he treats women with such respect, and a great deal about hers that she would not want or (potentially) allow him to do so. Acts of chivalry esteem the recipient, not diminish her, just as etiquette exists to include, warm and welcome—not exclude and embarrass.
- As a single woman, I'm always pleasantly surprised when a man holds the door for me or opens my car door or walks me to my car. Yes, I am perfectly capable of looking out for myself (out of necessity if nothing else), but it is nice to have someone show concern or act moderately protective. It's romantic, even.
- Chivalry has taken a long winter's nap. I want a man to open the door for me, hold it open if he has gone through first, enter a revolving door first so he can get it going and set the speed, be first on the escalator going DOWN and be behind me on the escalator going UP in case I stumble, walk on the street side of the sidewalk, and I promise I will be thankful and tell him so!
- If the lady this man is seeing is unappreciative of his efforts to protect and cherish her, he should bid her farewell and find someone who will blossom under this attention. But he should not, under any circumstances, give up on being chivalrous. I believe there must be more women who would appreciate his actions than those who wouldn't.
- If you look at true chivalry, historically, it's about men embracing their roles to appropriately represent Christ to women (who represent the Church). While societal customs and norms may change, I don't think that goal should ever die! Also, if we look at the meaning of marriage (which is really the end goal of dating), we see that marriage is a life of mutual service. There's no better time than during your dating years to get used to serving one another and receiving the other's service with grace and gratitude, whatever form it takes.
Well, what can you say after reading through thoughtful and honest comments such as these? The (female) tribe has most definitely spoken. We like, we want, we need chivalry!
Now, why do I say it is "necessary" and we "need" it? Well, as touched on in a few of the above comments, chivalry is what further defines the role of a man in a relationship involving a man and a woman. And this in turn, helps further define the role of a woman. Think on that for a moment.
But … equal? Yes. Different? Most definitely yes. And that's where there seems to be confusion in the battle of the sexes. God created male and female in his image. Male and female. Not male and male or female and female. Or even unisex and unisex.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).
God created man first out of the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7). He gave him the responsibility of working in the Garden of Eden and taking care of it (Genesis 2:15). He was the overseer. The caretaker.
But man needed a companion.
The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him" (Genesis 2:18).
Interesting. A "helper." Someone "suitable." Not someone exactly like the man. Not someone equipped to do the same sorts of things. But someone who complements man and is a good fit.
So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man (Genesis 2:21-22).
From the "side" of the man was where the woman was created. When you are "side by side" with someone, that usually indicates solidarity, agreement, support and loyalty.
So why am I taking you (and myself) through this mini refresher? To remind us all that God created men and women differently, but purposefully and specifically, and for each other. I was created for a man. And a man was created for me. (Not sure yet when the right one will show up, but I trust that God knows what he's doing!).
I believe you "enjoy" being chivalrous (as you've indicated in your question) because you were designed in this way. It's in your wiring to want to "work" and "take care of" something … and someone. And a woman (your "helper") was created to be suitable for you. In order to be suitable, she must complement you, allow you to be you (in your God-designed role) and not try to be you (i.e. a man). And when you are reaching out to "take care of," I think it's God's plan that she would respond by being receptive to what we are defining as chivalry (which represents sacrifice, service and even love).
The world has distorted and perverted this design, God's carefully orchestrated plan for the sexes. That's my belief (and interpretation of Scripture). And apparently, it's shared by the female friends who commented above and perhaps many others who read this column each month.
So I join with them today and encourage you to "chivalry on." Keep reaching out in kindness. And be the man God created you to be!
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is … Laura MacCorkle, Senior Editor at Crosswalk.com. She loves God, her family and her friends. Singleness has taught her patience, deepened her walk with the Lord and afforded her countless (who's counting anyway?) opportunities to whip up an amazing three-course meal for one.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We're just average folk who understand what it's like to live the solo life in the 21st century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life's questions, and it's where we'll go for guidance when responding to your questions. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately (we think they sound eerily similar sometimes, too!).
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**This column first published on October 1, 2009.