I have a service-oriented job. I exist to help you, to make your life easier, and to make sure you’re happy. I’ve come to learn that it’s easy for some people to look down on “the help”.
After all, if you’re a fairly successful individual, you will probably find yourself “higher up” on the hierarchy of employment. You might even find yourself surrounded by all sorts of helpers, people you pay to clean your clothes, to maintain your lawn, and take care of the minutiae of your busy schedule.
You might even begin to think of yourself as “better” than those others who weren’t smart enough, weren’t aggressive enough, or weren’t good enough to get out of such a low-class job, one that you are clearly, too superior to do. You might feel that they deserve to be treated differently because they’re not one of you and you might end up treating them in ways that you wouldn’t want to be treated or in ways that you wouldn’t want others to treat your own.
So the incident, well, it wasn’t my fault per se, but the guy I was helping felt it necessary to but the blame for the mistake squarely on my shoulders. His profanity-laced tired could be heard throughout the building. Afterwards, I was told not to take it – you see, it’s really easy to treat people in my line of work as if they’re next to nothing and only marginally better than being unemployed. Letting any grown adult throw a temper tantrum like that is actually pretty degrading.
Then I remembered advice from a Christian blogger about dealing with angry men – though she was specifically writing in the context of a wife with an extremely angry husband, she wrote:
“You can learn to work with male and female biology. That is where submission comes in, a really wise and helpful biblical principle. When men are angry and frustrated, they are often feeling powerless and disrespected. It’s counter intuitive but what they really need is to feel validated and genuinely powerful. Make yourself smaller, more child like, less intimidating, more feminine. Submit. You decrease your power so he will increase his. Anger may look powerful, but it usually comes from a place of frustration and powerlessness. I often tell my husband rather playfully, “Wow, you’re kind of scary when you’re angry,” or “Yikes, I wouldn’t tangle with you.” Anything I can think of that will bring him back in touch with his own powerfulness. The goal there is to trigger his protective nature, which then realigns his sense of control.”
She doesn’t see it, but she’s telling women to “take one for the team” – to allow themselves to be degraded. The way the Bible puts it, women, as a class of people, are “the help”. That’s how a great many churches teach about the roles of men and women. Not only that, but she connects it to a matter of biology; not marriage roles – after all, men are still male even when single, and every masculine trait still courses through their veins even when not married. She seems to believe that women are supposed let their power to be usurped by the men in their lives when the men most feel powerless, so that they can be recharged and restored to their senses by making the women in their lives powerless. Only then will a man’s protective instincts kick in to over-ride his aggressive drive and he will somehow magically stop himself from acting on his outrage. Once power and control are restored, so will his good mood. But isn’t that an illusion? The idea that a man can have power and control over that much of his life? What does it do to the women in his life to take from them again and again – their power, their ability to make decisions – to be continually treated that way? What becomes of them when she no longer has any power to give him and it’s not enough to satisfy his feeling of powerlessness?
You know her idea is essentially Biblical because Peter also gives the same advice to “the help”, slaves with harsh masters:
Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. – 1 Peter 2:18-21
As well as to “the help”, believing wives with unbelieving husbands:
Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. – 1 Peter 3:1-2
“In the same way” (or “likewise” as some Bibles put it) as what? It’s pretty clear that just as slaves were to submit themselves to their masters, harsh or gentle, in the same way, wives were submit themselves to their husbands, harsh or gentle.
It’s an old struggle of ours to treat the help as our equals – more often than not, we fail miserably. But for those of us who are the help, we need to give ourselves permission to stand up for ourselves because those we’re helping can – and will – take advantage of the situation and they most certainly won’t stand up for us. If we don’t help ourselves, who will?