It is my upbringing, but somehow it always seemed to me that taking the servants entrance was the best way to enter a person’s life. One of the houses where I lived as a young boy growing up in England had such a servant’s entrance around the back of the house. Entrance to the front door was highly visible to the street and the neighbors. A long gardened pathway made a suitable impression for important guests as they came to visit. Basically people of substance or title came through the front door. They knew who they were. I guess we would call them entitled. On the other hand only a drab cement and brick pathway greeted our less fortunate visitors. Through this entrance came the tradesmen or children with muddy shoes, which was often the case with me.
Entrance into the privileged areas of our own hearts has similar access doorways. You can come thru the front door with your sense of privilege. Otherwise you can enter through a more humble often unnoticed point of entry.
Perhaps the thing I detest the most in our work in Africa is male entitlement. Women and girls have been taught not to look a man straight in the eye. It is a sign of disrespect. Head men in the village demand all sorts of “favors” because of their entitled position. Rape has only recently become illegal in some African nations. It was considered a man’s right.
As we travel in Africa, much of our time is spent discerning those villages that have entitlement and those that don’t. In one particular village the widows were not showing any signs of appreciation for the new blankets we were handing out. We like other humanitarian organizations have very limited resources and had spent much time and money locating the best blankets available. When our field manager asked why they would not even say “thank you”, we were told it is because there were not enough blankets, they wanted more. Fortunately we often come across incredibly humble and thankful villages but this was not one of them. This village displayed the hardened condition known as entitlement.
The problem is widespread and comes from decades of training by well meaning people wanting to meet only the surface needs of the people they encounter. This continued surface provision has given way to entitlement and dependency. White people come into a village as importance guests and this has also been a problem for us. To combat this we come into their villages as inconspicuous as possible. We call it intentional obscurity. Techniques involve, getting our African field managers to do most of the dialogue and introducing us only as friends. No titles please. Usually I hide behind a camera and my wife and daughter talk only to the women and children. We choose older land rovers and avoid the shiny unscratched Toyota Land cruisers of government and non government agencies. We prefer the back door of building relationship. We are their servants to help them deal with their problems and bring support to their ideas of making their village healthy and strong. They own these solutions, they own the schools we help start.
We have been accused in the USA of being the most currently entitled nation on earth. I would say it’s true. We join the British, French, Spanish and Romans. These nations and others all forgot the simple truth that with great privilege comes great responsibility. The more we have the more we should serve.
Backdoor people will often serve whether it is valued or not. We still hand out food and blankets to sometimes unappreciative widows. But we have become better stewards of our time and money, knowing that we do not want to create dependency and entitlement. We want to maintain a healthy servant heart to those we serve. Entitlement only weakens churches and relationships, leading to an inability to receive the love behind the gift. I feel sorry for those in church leadership that have entitled people, but then again who trained them?
“…be clothed with humility for God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5