casual reader may wonder
what value chivalry could possibly have today.
The relevance has to do with the positive
contributions of medieval times to our present day culture. By studying
these historic roots, we better understand the world we live in.
We can start to repair cultural deficits long neglected.
The most important factor centers
on male issues. Medieval literature is responsible for fostering
our concept of being a gentleman. In our everyday
interactions we see how the idea of gentlemanly behavior has deteriorated.
The result? A lot of men cling to incomplete or even negative images
of what it means to be a man. A number of social problems stem from
this, from deadbeat dads to spousal abuse to alcohol addiction.
Chivalry once provided
the foundation for our male code of ethics. As an ethical standard
in medieval times, it certainly had its failings. Nevertheless,
its influence shaped the basic tenets for European gentlemanly behavior.
In the 1700s, it was embraced by our visionary forefathers on this
side of the Atlantic, who envisioned proper social interaction as
an integral part of what America was all about. The freedom they
fought for was not an empty concept. It took for granted personal
ethics and responsibility. They knew that, without a moral base,
freedom easily degenerates into a social liability, instead of serving
as a prodigious source of personal inspiration. That the freedom they cherished should be used to protect pornographers and scandal
mongers was not their original intent. As disciples of the Enlightenment,
they anticipated that humanity would progress into something better.
They knew that freedom without ethics is like a ship without a rudderunable
to reach its destination, which is the personal fulfillment of us
Chivalry spells out certain ethical
standards that foster the development of manhood. Men are called
to be: truthful, loyal, courteous to others, helpmates to
women, supporters of justice, and defenders of the weak.
They are also expected to avoid scandal.
Beautiful ideals! They attract us
with a sense of nostalgia that feels almost religious. That's because
they are part of us already. Unfortunately, they contend with powerful,
often destructive influences, like commercial television, that bombard
us with outrageously bullish images of men that are, at best, inappropriate.
The virtues of chivalry offer more
than pleasantries and politeness. They give purpose
and meaning to male strength, and therefore support
the overall workings of society. They remind us that Camelot
is an ideal worth striving for, the reflection of who we are when
we are at our best. Here is a short summary:
provides the foundation of chivalry. A man who lies cannot be
trusted. His strength and ambitions cannot be esteemed. Truth
should always remain our greatest concern.
Loyalty denotes a relationship
that is based on truth and commitment. If we are fortunate, we
have companions who are loyal to usbut we must be loyal
to others as well. Remember, loyalty is a virtue to cultivate,
even when it is not reciprocated.
Courtesy provides the means
for cordial and meaningful relationships. A society cannot be
healthy without courteous interaction. We sometimes admire people
who trample on courtesy to get what they wantunfortunately,
the contentious world they create is very disappointing, and we
all have to live in it.
Chivalry calls men to honor women,
and to serve as their helpmates. This precept merely states the
natural order of things. Men should honor women first as indiviudals,
but also as the conduits and nurturers of life. That certain men
commit violence against women, or treat them with disrespect,
is an outrage against nature, and a slight against manhood.
Justice involves little more
than treating people fairly. It also calls for mercy. We all make
We admire men who are strong, but
if their strength is not directed to uphold what is good, what
value does it have? We are called to use our strength to defend
those who cannot defend themselves, and commit
ourselves to just causes.
Nothing is more unmanly and corruptive
to society than delighting in scandal and gossip. Not only
do you harm those who are victims of gossip, you harm yourself
as well. How? By becoming a creature who is unloving. It is wrong
to delight in the guilt or suffering of others, or to feed the
flames of scandal, a major occupation of nightly television. No
one is perfect. That fact in itself unites us all.
Chivalry also speaks about romantic
love. People today often find romantic love disappointing.
It promises more than it delivers, especially in regards to permanence.
Why? Because we perceive romantic love as something spontaneous,
something that does not demand work and a strong moral base. Medieval
literature tells us quite the opposite. The very essence of romantic
love is commitment. This is where chivalry provides
a vital ingredient. Love relationships provide the laboratory
where the virtues of chivalry are tested to their fullest, and
manliness is proved. An added bonus shows that proper love encourages
us to do our best in all things.
often take who we are for grantedas if our beliefs and behaviors
are fixed in stone. The truth is that we are creatures constantly
in the making. We either move forward in our development, or backwards.
Staying still is the same as going backwards. Why? Because the movement
of time never holds still. We either progress with it, or are left