Wool Slacks and The Temptation to Power

It is ironic, as Henri Nouwen articulates, that even while claiming to follow the poor and powerless Jesus, the Christian leaders of history "gave in to the temptation of power."

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Monday I went to rent a car. It was a long trip getting there, but I wore high heels and wool dress slacks and a knit top for the entire day just to impress upon the rental car personnel that I was someone serious and business-like and they should not disrespect me or try any chicanery. Watch out!-- I'm wearing slacks! I called ahead asking for directions and rates and the woman on the other end gave them to me, as well as a rundown of the needed qualifications required to do business with them. "You needa be at least 21, with a driver license, and proofa insurance." Check, check, and check. 

When I walked in the door, slacks and all, I gave the attendant a bright assertive smile and said, "Hi, I'm here to rent a car. I just talked with you on the phone." Smile. Assertive posture. SLACKS, for goodness' sake. She says, "Um, honey, are you 21?" I wore those high heels for nothing.

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I think that my petite stature and young face and perhaps even my femaleness have given me a sensitivity to patronization. I don’t experience it often, but when someone acts condescendingly to me, my pride flares hot and bright. In those moments I feel the need to instruct people that I am not a high school student, I am not his secretary, I am not a summer intern, I am not a dorm student. What I am trying to say is, “I am better than that. I deserve more respect than that.” But why? Does a dorm chaplain deserve more respect than a dorm student? Does a ministerial officer deserve more respect than an administrative assistant? Does a graduate student deserve more respect than a high school student? Reflection tells me that this demand for respect comes out of a place of personal insecurity.