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The Pitfalls of Chivalry

Knightly confrontation.
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I often view chivalry as a bright North Star that morally guides us in a world otherwise trapped in darkness. Nothing but good can come from it.
      But there are pitfalls to chivalry that we need to be aware of. These pitfalls are not found in the moral directives or overall philosophy of this code, but in our exaggerated or misguided response to it.
      Enthusiasm is a wonderful thing. It delivers the excitement and energy to commit ourselves to purposeful action. Chivalry-Now can instigate such enthusiasm—and should! After all, what else in our secular society carries such a wide range of inspiration and moral guidance, along with a blueprint of what it means to be a man?
      The problem is that enthusiasm can sometimes be blinding. Something like chivalry can be so personally inspiring that it becomes an end unto itself, rather than an ethical foundation meant to enhance everyday living.
      The dangers are obvious. It is natural to get self-absorbed with any kind of personal development. We see self-changing fanatics all the time, identifying with the latest diet or exercise craze, not to mention political or religious extremists. In a similar fashion, people so inclined might conclude that Chivalry-Now makes a man superior to others, and thus entitled to special treatment. Such a belief is wrong. It separates us from other people when the purpose of chivalry is quite the opposite. It is wrong to look down on other men or women, even brothers of the code who do not live up to full chivalric expectations. It is wrong to judge anyone as unworthy.
      This is why humility is such an important part of the code. It reminds us that no one is perfect and that the purpose of our inner strength is to become servants of truth, courtesy and goodness, rather than people who claim entitlement for being special.
      Self-absorbed chivalry is as obnoxious as any other obsession. Historically, it once contributed to class consciousness which separated the wealthy from the masses. We have to avoid that, or the essence of chivalry dies in our hands..
      Likewise, courtesy is a vital element to the chivalric code, but it must never be solicitous, phony or ostentatious. True courtesy is never an act. It comes from within, or not at all. Women today do not want to be worshipped, or placed on a pedestal. They want authentic relationships, as we all do, and that means seeing them for who they are.
      If we think too much about ourselves, our sinful nature, or how to improve or just admire what we perceive as our own wonderful qualities, we become detached from the world around us. We lose the purpose for self-improvement, which is helping others to the best of our abilities, being there for them in mind and spirit. Chivalry, in the end, is not about posing as nobility, or looking in the mirror with self-satisfaction. It's about living fully in openness to others. It's about smiling more; making people feel comfortable and secure; doing what we perceive is right; filling our place in society as men; being honest. Most of all, it's about living in the here and now. Living and loving and seeing each dawn as the most unique opportunity of its kind.
      Chivalry-Now is not meant to be either self-critical or critical of others. Being critical is a waste of time and a diversion from the quest, an attitude that detracts from the impetus of positive motion. It plays havoc with our vision of the world, our attitude toward others and a distracting attitude toward ourselves that we are something special.
      Chivalry's intent is not to focus so much on ourselves, but to relate well to other people and be aware of their needs.
      The benefits to us come from doing what is right from the fullness of our being. Chivalry comes to life when we gallantly take part in the harmony of life—with men, women, the world around us, God, if you believe in God—but most of all ourselves. Self-absorption destroys that. To move forward, we must find find peace within ourselves that overcomes the preoccupation of self, and allows others to come in.
      My personal vision of Chivalry-Now is pretty simple: it is a code of behavior designed to make us better people in all aspects of our lives. Not superior, or special, or to gain recognition. A well-rounded life has to be more simple than that. Simplicity is the key for truly chivalrous behavior.
      And so I call on all men to take seriously the effort of keeping Chivalry-Now the pure and positive influence for good that it can be. This should be our greatest charge, other than our own compassionate dealings with other people.

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