June 2, 2015 // Uncategorized

On being a woman; on being a man

From the driver seat of my car in the school parking lot today, I watched as a nice looking, sandy haired, high school boy carried my daughter’s books out to the car. My daughter’s backpack was weighed down heavily as was evidenced by its bulkiness, and later I found out she had cleaned out her locker since it was the last day of school and finals were about to begin.

The heaviness of the bag didn’t seem to bother the boy, who chatted and laughed with her as they walked. When they reached the side of the car, the boy nodded toward me, opened the door and plopped her bag on the seat, and then said goodbye. My daughter was smiling and thanked him warmly before he went back into the school building. “See you tomorrow!” she called after him. Last week, a different but equally thoughtful young man had carried her books out to the car with similar enthusiasm. And my daughter had smiled, talked and thanked him too.

My daughter isn’t dating around (or whatever the modern term is for that these days). In fact, she’s not dating at all. Per her dad’s and my desire to delay one on one dating until age 18 or beyond, she is simply learning to enjoy friendships. She is enjoying being a girl. The young men who walked with her out to the car in friendship and assistance the last couple weeks seemed to enjoy carrying her books. They looked confident as they did so. They walked with a purpose. It seemed each had a certain kind of pride about offering this basic courtesy and really seemed to enjoy being a helpful guy.

A giver. A receiver. An offer. An acceptance. Politeness. Kindness. It was nice, kind of like a dance of sorts. What’s more, the action was completely natural, even while some may find it quite surprising that a couple of modern 17 year olds from 2015 were behaving traditionally and graciously, without prompting, as though they had stepped out of the 1950s.

My daughter’s younger sister, who was in the back seat of the car this afternoon, commented when we had driven off, “Geez! Why do all the guys want to carry your books?”

“I don’t know,” the other daughter replied, looking out the window thoughtfully, “I guess they know I need help and when they offer and I tell them thank you, they know that I really appreciate it.” They want to be nice. They want to please.


I believe that young or old, a man’s natural inclination is to be helpful and protective, chivalrous even, and a culture benefits when that is welcomed warmly. The word “civilization” has the root word “civil” in it. To be civil is to bring up from barbarism; to train to live with others. Politeness and chivalry build strong civilizations … cultures that are orderly and pleasant and help people be the best they can be.

In modern society, however, chivalrous behavior is not always valued. One of my sons recalls several instances of opening the door for a girl when she followed behind him into a college classroom. He rarely heard “thank you” or received a warm smile, but instead received a snotty “I can do that myself.” Or “I don’t need you to do that for me. I’m capable.” With this reaction it sure would be easy to stop trying to do polite things when one is not only not met with appreciation but is met with snarky-ness instead.

What a shame.

Society benefits when women and men embrace their natures, when men chivalrously offer to do helpful things when appropriate, and when the women are sweet and gratefully accept assistance that is offered to them. Politeness helps the relations between any two people, but especially when opposite sexes interact. Men and women each bring different unique gifts and talents to the table, both because of their maleness and femaleness and because every person is made distinct, unique and special. Thank God there are differences. Thank God when there is chivalry and acceptance and civility.

Alice Von Hildenbrand, philosopher and author of “The Privilege of Being a Woman” said once in an interview, “… Men truly become ‘themselves’ thanks to the love of their wives … wives are transformed by their husband’s strength and courage.” If this is indeed true, then surely this begins when men and women are boys and girls and their natures, which are hardwired by biology, are allowed to develop instinctively.

When the Book of Genesis speaks of “help,” “it is not referring merely to acting, but also to being. Womanhood and manhood are complementary not only from the physical and psychological points of view, but also from the ontological. It is only through the duality of the ‘masculine’ and the ‘feminine’ that the ‘human’ finds full realization.”

As I watched the exchange between my teenaged girl and her friend this afternoon, those lofty thoughts swirled in my mind. And I came to a simple conclusion. The world needs a little more offers and acceptances, politeness and kindness for seeds of peace, a truly civil society, to grow. The world needs a little more of God’s own plan, and it can start with our youth. Boys, be the carriers of backpacks, and girls, be sweet and appreciative. Together, in this way, little by little, both sexes can reclaim a bit of goodness in the world.

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