Love is More than an Open Door: Chivalry in Today’s Culture

I’m going to make a bold statement that some of you may not agree with.  The modern day gentleman who respects women and values human beings for who they are and not what they can give him is out there.

Believe me, I know what you’re thinking. Because I thought it for so long as well.

That sounds great, but there aren’t any good guys out there anymore. They just don’t exist.  If they’re out there, they aren’t in my life and they probably never will be.  

Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong.  They do exist, and not just in fiction or Hallmark Movie Christmas specials.  Instead, they could be on your campus, in your church, in your family or on your way to work.

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong, because someday in your life, you will have been all of these.” George Washington Carver (1864-1943); botanist, agricultural chemist, inventor, educator: But in order to appreciate chivalry as a woman, that means that we have to accept the beautiful gift of a man respecting us.  And sometimes that’s hard for a generation of women who have been told that their body is the only thing that a man wants, and it’s not worth it to have self-respect.

I don’t love chivalry because I’m weak, or lack self-esteem, or simply don’t have the desire to open doors – but because I’m honoring the God-given position that has been given to the men in my life {whether that be my dad, boyfriend, or brothers in their own way} to lead me to Heaven.  Not because they’re better than me, or holier than me.  But because in Ephesians 5, Christ calls men to lay down their lives for the women they love, which speaks of the love story between Christ and His bride, the Church.  Do you know what that love story involved?  Dying.  Stretched out on a wooden beam, heaving for breath, forgiving those who were torturing him, agony and pain.  Out of love for Her.  And out of respect for the amazing plan that God had for Her in the story of the salvation of His people.

Perhaps it is not the chivalry is dead…perhaps it is that we’ve started settling for a lot less.  A quick look onto the Billboard Top 40 Hits right now is a testimony to the deep ache felt by the general population for something more.  Something deeper.  Something meaningful.  

Selena Gomez is sick of that same old, her body has had enough.  Alessia Cara would rather be home all by herself not in this room with people who don’t even care about her well being.  Cam has been sleepwalking, wandering all night, trying to take what’s lost and broke and make it right.  And Justin Bieber just wants to know what his lover means when she nods her head yes but she wants to say no.  This culture is looking for a sweeter song – something satisfying.  Yet, ironically, it simultaneously rejects everything that resembles respect for one another as human beings made in the image and likeness of our Heavenly Father {especially in a romantic relationship, which often sink into utilitarianism} because it’s old fashioned and the future has to have something better in store…right?

so many pictures of holding hands in the car and yet they never get old: Maybe I’m biased.  I am exceedingly blessed to have an earthly father who has loved me from day one and never been afraid to show that through his actions.  I am tremendously blessed to be dating a man who constantly puts my good above his own and makes me so proud of him through the way that he loves me.  My little brothers respect me and honor me in their own unique way – which usually involves giving me a Nerf gun before they start firing.  Hey, to each his own.

Chivalry is so much more than just opening the car door or walking on the outside side of the sidewalk. It isn’t just giving a girl your jacket or helping her carry things.  It would be a great disservice to the men who practice chivalry to reduce that virtue down simply to the fruits of the actions performed.  Chivalry is a state of mind.  Chivalry is valuing a woman’s heart not for what she can do for you, but for who she is integrally.  Chivalry inspires those around it to be more, do more and act with integrity.

                      God assigns to every man the dignity of every woman. (JPII)  

Not just the woman you love romantically.  Not just your mother, or your sisters, or your dear friends.  No, every woman is deserving of respect…especially when she herself has forgotten that she is worthy of a passionate and self-giving love.

Gentleman.  In the amazing and continuously applicable words of Saint Pope John Paul II – Be Not Afraid.  I know, I know, I say that phrase so much, but it is so beautifully encompassing of the point I’m trying to articulate.  There are women who won’t appreciate the gift that you’re trying to give them through respecting them.  Give it anyway.  There are people who will call you old fashioned and tell you to get with the times when you take the time to go the extra mile in any relationship.  Ignore them.  You’re tapping into the greater call of manhood when you respect a woman.  Every woman, regardless of her recognition of the fact, deserves men in her life who respect her as a child of God.  And every man deserves to be appreciated for his effort.  So, for those who don’t recognize your acts of chivalry, thank you.  Thank you for putting our good ahead of yours in a very tangible way.  Please, I beg you, continue to stand against the current of the modern culture and show women the love that they so deeply deserve.

Ladies.  If the men in your life are showing you that you are worthy of respect…value them for it.  If the man in front of you at the convenience store or the classroom holds the door – thank them.  It’s not because you are weak.  I know you can get that door for yourself.  But your brother is stopping and consciously reflecting the love that God has for you as His daughter.  We can’t let that pass us by because we are too proud to say thank you.  The radical feminist movement has ruined a lot for women, but one of the greatest injustices that it perpetrated was the emasculation of the men in our lives.  In their own way, they are sacrificing for you.   Don’t let the vicious cycle of use continue in our world.

On Sunday at Church, the priest who said Mass talked about the inherent intertwining that happens with masculine and feminine spirituality.

                      The strength of every man lies in the heart of the woman he loves. 

The interaction between the two sexes while here on this earth is meant to reflect the love that the Heavenly Father has shown and continues to show us.  Don’t miss out on partaking in that exchange because of pride…on either end of the equation.

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Appreciating Women

In the late 1960s, the feminist movement burst onto the cultural scene in America, and in it’s wake has left an American culture that is thirsting for true femininity and the ever elusive answers concerning the interaction between men and women.

The world defines feminism as equality.  Men and women should be treated the same, and men and women should be allowed to do whatever they want.

What does a Catholic have to say on this issue?

I believe in the distinct equality of the human person – but I also greatly value the beauty in the differences between men and women and how God created two genders…not one.

I’m a Aquinas-loving, theology-reading, baseball loving woman with a pixie cut.  I love a good maxi skirt, a strong espresso, and the desire to totally loose myself in love of others.  And I believe that radical feminism has destroyed femininity.  

I’m tired of a radical feminism that says that my desires to get married and have a family are old fashioned and I’m giving up on what should be my ‘real dreams’ if I pursue something so archaic. I’m tired of an angry feminism that says it’s my body and I can do with it whatever I want.  I’m sick of the radical feminism that says woman should just be clones of men and there is no difference between the two.

I value womanhood and femininity as a whole because the world needs femininity and, frankly, the world needs the beauty and uniqueness of women.  For too long, today’s culture has squished what is feminine down into the outskirts of society, all with the battle cry that women are equal, and men and women are the same. And if womanhood is talked about, it’s reduced to narcissistic messages about how woman can look…which is more objectifying than empowering.

In his letter to women in 1995, Saint John Paul II wrote, “Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.” 

A valuing of women and Catholicism aren’t two things that are at odds with each other. In fact, it is in the Catholic Church that I am the most valued, respected, and honored as a woman.  The love and honor showed to our Blessed Mother radiates the appreciation of the beauty of a woman’s role in salvation history.  Saint Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) wrote, “The feminine sex is ennobled by the virtue of the Savior’s being born of a human mother; a woman was the gateway through which God found entrance to humankind.” Whoa. Re-read that line if you have to : it was a woman who acted as the very portal for Christ to enter the world and take on human nature.  If that honor isn’t something that values a woman, I don’t know what is.

Being a woman doesn’t mean that I’m weak, or insignificant, or less-than-a-person. It actually means that I’m strong, beautifully valued, and a whole person who finds my value and significance in Christ.

Being a woman isn’t about what you wear, what service projects you have on your resume, whether you are married, or devoted to the religious life.  It isn’t about how long your hair is, whether you wear high heels, what religious orders’ charism appeals to you, or who your favorite spiritual author is.  Being a female, desiring to uphold the dignity of women as human beings, and possessing a sense of femininity is something completely different.

“It’s about what inspires our deepest passion, and who reigns in our hearts.” Colleen Carroll Campbell says in her talk, “The Feminine Genius.”

We live in a world that hungers so deeply for saints to rise up, and whose brokenness yearns for the touch a spiritual materialism.  But the culture’s answer to this problem is to create a uni-gender mentality that blurs the lines between roles of men and women, and disdains any difference between what is male and what is female.

Femininity is not a burden or a set back.  Instead, it is a beautiful gift that allows one to be so receptive to Christ’s love for oneself and for the world. Call me old fashioned, but I agree with Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen who said, “The level of any civilization is always its level of womanhood.  In as much as woman is loved, it follows that the nobler a woman is, the nobler a man will have to be to be deserving of that love.  That is why the level of any civilization of its womanhood.”

The feminine genius that JPII called women to is a great call – a call to love.  A call to embrace the fact that woman are called to help create a culture and world that is open to life.

If we take what JPII and the Church says about women, Colleen Campbell says, “We realize that our fulfillment lies not in tearing men down, or, in imitating boys behaving badly.  It lies in becoming more fully what God created us to be: human beings who bear His image to the world in a distinctively feminine way.”

Viva La Difference….Viva La Feminine. 

Need

More than I ever thought it could have been, my dating fast has been such a blessing – irony of ironies –  becuase it has let me really focus in on what relationship looks like with an objective point of view.  I was thinking about this quite a bit today while I was running – because, face it, the best thinking is either on the treadmill or in the shower.  Let’s be real. What are some of these thoughts then? 

I don’t want a man to need me. 

I don’t want to be the reason a guy goes to Church.  I don’t want to be the middle man (or lady) between a man and the Lord.  This isn’t to discount the beauty of marriage and willing the good of the other as other.  But to be needed? No thanks.  It sounds harsh, but let me explain. 

Let’s say a man needs me emotionally. What would happen when he doesn’t need me anymore? When I’m not the reason that he’s standing, he can lean weight back on his own two feet and I become the pair of crutches that he needed until things got sorted out and healed? Or if a relationship with me is the substitute for what he really needs?

Because he doesn’t need me.  He needs God

I’m not the one who has seen him at his worst and still can make him whole.  I’m not the one who created his soul and who began his existence in his mother’s womb.  I’m not the one who can forgive all his sins with a single word, and welcome him with open arms and unconditional love.  But you know who can fulfill all of that and more?

Colossians 2:10 has a beautiful answer to that question.



For in Christ all the fullness<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29504P" data-link="(P)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> of the Deity lives in bodily form,
 and in Christ you have been
brought to fullness.
He is the head<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29505Q" data-link="(Q)” style=”background-color: white; box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>
 over every power and authority.”

Yet not wanting to be needed is a two way street – I don’t want to need him either.

Whether that be the elusive him, the could be, who I ‘need’ in my life before I grow in my faith life…or the actual him who pursues me.  I want who I am as a child of God to be defined without him.  Because when two incomplete, half-people marry each other, they don’t complete each other.  They are just two halves that are struggling to find out who they really are.  I don’t need someone to complete me, because that is my maker’s job.

I don’t want to be defined by the need to be needed.  My definition of who I am is found in the fact that I am child of God. 

What does this all boil down to? A healthy relationship is a relationship that is built on the basis of an identification in God.  You are not defined by who you are with or who you aren’t.  You are not the sum of your failures, weaknesses or needs.  You are summed up by the Father’s love for you. (JPII).  Don’t fall in love with the idea of being needed by someone.  Don’t be in a relationship just because you don’t want to not feel lonely. The healthy relationship is one that works like a triangle.  You’re common need is not each other, or affirmation, or affection.  Your commonality lies in the common goal of God and eternity with Him. Each side of the triangle (both the guy and the gal) are working towards a commonality that is not themselves and is not each other.  Instead, they are working together towards a greater good that is outside themselves and requires sacrifice.  That’s what marriage is – not someone fulfilling your needs, but instead you both bringing each other closer to the one who is the author of love.  

Don’t need someone.  Don’t be needed. Instead, find your identity in the unmovable.  Feelings change.  Needs Change.  Wants change.  But the Lord? Not so much.  In fact, Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  That sounds like a constant to me.

Thoughts? I’d love to hear what you think on the subject.

In Christ,
Chloe