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(Don't) Save Me

Dear Beauty from the Heart,

I was wondering, what is your perspective is on chivalry? The reason I ask is, at the beginning of the year I began courting a young man, with the expectation that we would discover whether or not God intended for us to become more than friends. Along the way, I discovered that I was very highly irritated by his 'gentlemanly behavior'. He would go very much out of his way to open doors for me, take something out of my hands if I were carrying it, and pull out seats for me. It sounds like a dream, doesn't it? But he became offended if I offered to carry anything for him, or open a door before he got there first. I was very confused, because my personality loves helping others and my one strength (among a myriad of weaknesses) is putting others before myself. I began to feel disrespected, as if my offers of courtesy were not valid or proper. At times, I felt as though I were his property, and by offering my services I was robbing him of some right. For many other reasons, chiefly God showing us that we were both too immature (spiritually, for me) to be considering serious relationships, our courtship was ended at the beginning of summer, but the issue has continued to plague me. What is the Biblical basis for chivalry? Is it acceptable for women to open doors for themselves, or offer to carry something if a man's hands are full? Am I being rebellious in some way by wanting to open doors when I arrive at them, instead of waiting for a man who may be a step behind me?


"A Damsel in Distress"

Dear Damsel,

It's good to hear from you! You have asked several interesting questions. I've consulted my parents and God's Word and we're going to try to answer you to the best of our ability. However, if you have not already done so, I would encourage you to discuss this with your parents. They are the people God has given to guide you, and I'm sure they are more than willing to give advice.

It's true. Modern knights in shining armor have it tough these days. The damsels in distress who in medieval times would clasp their hands and shriek "Save me!" now proclaim "I can do it myself!" Is this wrong? After all, the word "chivalry" never appears in the Bible. In fact, from what I can find, the word first appeared in about 1300 AD in medieval France. But does this mean that chivalry is unbiblical?

Perhaps….but let's take a closer look.

When you hear the word "chivalry" what comes to mind? For me, I think of a man opening the door or giving up his chair for a lady. Are these acts of kindness just that—simple acts of kindness that should be offered by both sexes? Should men treat women with such differential respect for merely being women?

According to 1 Peter 3:7, women are to be treated differently by their husbands. It says, "Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel..." What does the term "weaker vessel" mean? I posted once an analogy I heard on this subject:

A pastor once explained in his sermon the differences between men and women, and what it meant to be a "weaker vessel." He showed to the congregation two pitchers. One was a plastic water pitcher. He explained: "Men are like this pitcher. It is strong, heavy-duty and designed for a unique purpose." Then, the pastor revealed a delicate, porcelain teapot to the congregation. "Women," he said as he gently upheld the fragile pitcher, "are like this teapot. It too is made for a unique purpose...but it is the weaker vessel. If I dropped it, it would shatter. If I dropped the plastic pitcher, it would not shatter. But the value of the teapot is not diminished by its delicateness. We treasure and protect teapots."

Although 1 Peter 3:7 is directed to husbands, this verse does recognize the differences between the sexes and that they should be respected, not ignored. We can see other instances in Scripture which women have been treasured and treated with deference, such as in the Song of Solomon, where a group of brothers announce that they will protect their little sister:

"If she is a wall,

we will build towers of silver on her.

If she is a door,

we will enclose her with panels of cedar."

(Song of Solomon 8:9)

You see, chivalry is really a mindset. It's about embracing the role that God has given men: to serve and protect women. It stems from an attitude in the heart that wants to honor God, by putting the needs and comforts of women above their own.

Does this mean that chivalry is limited only to men? Well, yes-- and no. The word “chivalry” is used only regarding the way a man treats a lady. But Bible is clear that we are all to be servants of one another (1 Peter 4:10, Matthew 20:26-28). It is certainly not wrong for you to desire to serve others by putting their needs before your own, even when this involves offering to carry something for someone else. In fact, it's wonderful that God has given you such a meek, serving spirit!

Nonetheless, there are many opportunities for you to serve that are unique to girls. For instance, if I am cooking dinner, I am not insulted by my brother's lack of chivalry if he does not offer to help cook. Cooking is not his strong point. (Actually, it is not mine either, but I am the person training to be a keeper of the home, and he is not!) He is perfectly capable of learning to cook, but as a girl training to be a wife and mother, I want to serve him in this way! Even chivalrous guys must need help from time to time, and should be humble enough to appreciate your willing aid.

Just the same, there needs to be humility on both sides. In order for men to be chivalrous, damsels must be willing to accept and support their actions. I know that it is sometimes difficult to make a conscious effort to allow guys to do things. At times in the past, I have insisted on carrying a heavy table myself when guys have offered to do it for me. I can handle carrying tables (most of the time) but I must step back and allow the guy to express his respect for my femininity by doing the work himself.

Thank you for writing, Damsel. I hope this helps!

God bless!

Hannah (for Kristin, Lindsey and Stephanie)

P.S. If you would like to investigate this topic more in-depth, I recommend checking out these posts on chivalry.

"The Modern Day Gentleman" (Part One of a five post series)
"Chivalry in a Modern World"

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That's very well put Hannah.

There are different ways in which to serve. Some for the men and some for the ladies. I've also been thinking lately that maybe there is a time not to offer assistance to a lady because maybe they would like to do it themselves. I'm still working on that though :).

Just come across your site. What i've seen is great!
God bless you
Maria in the UK

This is a really, really good post, Hannah! You've touched on some really good points. Thanks for sharing!

Good post.

Thank you all! I forgot to mention in my post, if you have any input, please don't hesitate to share as well.

Excellent post, and excellent letter... In all honesty, Chivalry is still a good thing, as long as it is done with good intentions.

I always open doors for men and women, pull out a chair for my mom, etc..

In my opinion, i think the writer of this letter may be looking at an issue that really isn't the issue.. It may seem like chivalry, but may dwell in the issue of insecurity on the boy's part...

Men, sometimes have a tendency to be the bread winner, the guy who pays for the dinner, the protector, the knight in shining armor, etc..

This isn't a maturity issue. The fact is that this problem is encountered in relationships in teens and adults.. the key is always communication and the point that a relationship is a partnership.. you do things for the other person not because of ego, but because of sincerely wanting to help.

If you can communicate that to the other person and both of you understand this, then opening doors for the other person is really not a problem =)

Well said Hannah!

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