Published on September 16th, 2006 | by Alex and Brett Harris
Receiving Counterfeit Chivalry
“All my life I have been overweight,” writes Amanda, in response to our recent post, The Big Misunderstanding, “I’ve been made fun of and used to consider myself ugly. When I went off to a private Christian college I noticed that all of the sudden there were gentlemen everywhere — for the other girls.”
Amanda goes on to share how throughout her first year of college she witnessed each of the thirty other girls on her dorm floor receive attention from gentlemen — the opening of a door, the carrying of bags, etc. — but that she never had a door opened or something carried for her. “I would love to say I’m exaggerating,” she writes, “but alas, I’m not.”
Disappointing, But Not Surprising
Amanda’s story should grieve us because it is an example men serving women based on a selfish criteria of attraction. It indicates that for some men chivalry is nothing more than respectable flirtation.
But, on the other hand, Amanda’s story should come as no surprise to us. We know that Satan hates chivalry because it enforces biblical manhood and womanhood and because it fights against self-centeredness. Therefore, we should expect that if Satan is unable to destroy chivalry his next strategy would be to corrupt it by infusing it with self-centered motives.
One of the greatest hindrances to true chivalry is the prevalence of counterfeits. Women are turned off to true chivalry because fake chivalry is ugly and base. Men are fooled into believing that they are gentlemen when in reality they are ladies’ men and show-offs.
The solution is for each of us to recognize the counterfeits, both in ourselves and in others, and to embrace true chivalry by laying aside self-centeredness and pride, and by serving one another genuinely.
Watch Out For Counterfeit Chivalry
Men, if we only show courtesy to certain girls on certain days when we are in certain moods, we are not gentlemen. If we show courtesy to women in public but fail to do the same for our mother and sisters, we are not gentlemen.
In fact, if our motivation for serving a woman is anything other than, “This is a woman that I have been called to serve and protect,” we have counterfeit chivalry. We must continually remind ourselves that women deserve our service regardless of their age or appearance.
Ladies, you can serve your brothers in this area by calling attention to any double-standards you observe. Do so gently, but if you see a man who is being selective in his expressions of courtesy bring it to his attention.
Don’t use yourself as an example of someone he has neglected, but especially if you observe inconsistencies between how he treats his female friends and how he treats his mother and sister(s), let him know that it casts doubt on whether he truly is a gentlemen.
This may be a hard, scary thing, but it will greatly serve your brothers. The wounds of a friend are faithful (Prov. 27:6) and you can prove yourself a faithful friend and a true lady by gently and humbly addressing counterfeit chivalry.
Is He Flirting Or Not?
Many young ladies have told me that the reason they turn down chivalrous offers is because it seems as if the men are flirting. These young ladies want to do the right thing by not encouraging this attention, and therefore refuse the service. Is that the right decision?
Well, there is no doubt that these ladies have the right motivation. Depending on the situation, however, it may or may not be the right response. For this reason I have two encouragements for the ladies:
First, be aware of your own tendency to read into the actions of your brothers. Unless the flirtation is obvious to everyone you should assume that this man is simply treating you as a sister in Christ, and nothing more. Many potential gentlemen are discouraged by women who welcome or refuse their service as if it were an offer of marriage.
Secondly, remember that you cannot judge the heart motivations of others. The only thing you can objectively judge is inconsistency. If you notice that a man only shows courtesy to you or a few select women it is likely that he is flirting. As mentioned above you should gently talk to him, not about flirting, but about being inconsistent as a gentleman.
The Solution For Our Hearts
In closing, we must all remember that without changed hearts we are hopeless as gentlemen and ladies. Apart from Jesus Christ’s redemptive work on the Cross our hearts are incapable of humble, selfless love and are enslaved to self-centeredness and pride.
If we try to love and serve one another while our hearts are dead we are destined to have our motives twisted by self-centeredness. It is no use trying to act as if we have Christ’s love in our hearts when in reality we don’t.
Jesus said in Matthew 23:27, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.”
The Gospel is the solution to counterfeit chivalry, because Jesus Christ took upon Himself all of our selfishness and pride and died the death our sin deserves. He endured the wrath of God, and rose from the dead so that by believing in Him and in the sufficiency of His sacrifice, we might “die” to our sin and live a new life of freedom — freedom to love others as we have been loved.
Read: Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four / Part Five