A friend once asked her mother about the cultural expectation that men hold open doors for women. After all, women are perfectly capable of opening a door for themselves (or for men, for that matter). Her mother’s response threw out the cultural expectations and got to the point: “All people hold all doors for all people.”
Some expectations are so ingrained within us we rarely question why we have them and whether they’re good or helpful. I am not going to comment much on the particulars of men holding doors for women; there is certainly more than enough discussion out there on the topic (example from Psychology Today, Why do you hold the door for others?). However, I love the way my friend’s mother’s response gets to the heart of the issue: All people hold all doors for all people. What is most important is that all people are equally worthy of everyone else’s consideration and effort.
This principle is often more helpful (and loving) than the situation-specific expectations we learn. We get so tangled up in “shoulds” and rules and suggestions that we lose sight of what is always true: All people are people. All people are of the same intrinsic worth. This is true regardless of…
…whether they are male or female.
…whether they look like you or are completely different from you.
…whether they delight you or annoy you.
…whether they share your beliefs.
…whether they are young or old.
…whether they are single or married.
…whether they are part of your “family.”
…whether they are part of your social class.
…whether they are part of your social circle.
Another way to think about this is to ask yourself what honors others. One definition of honor is “pay with great respect.” This can mean different things at different times. Of course, it’s not always simple. Of course, you can come up with all kinds of hypothetical “what if…?” situations…
…but the truth that all people are equal is always the place to start. When Jesus was asked the greatest commandments, he didn’t say, “Love God, then love the people who are like you, then love your neighbor.” He said, “You shall love the Lord your God” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And then, “On these commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Essentially, everything else flows from your love of God and of other people. All other people.