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12 Trusts, Extended Version

The 12 Trusts are not just words listing a chivalrous code of behavior. They are deeper than that. They are contemplations that serious Companions need to fully understand.
     The following will help you consider their deeper meaning.

The 1st Trust

"I will develop my life for the greater good."

Chivalry-Now starts with the potential of who we are, and our purpose in life. As reasoning creatures, we naturally want our lives to have purpose and meaning. We are subtly discontent without them, and sometimes deeply frustrated, without really knowing why, The reason is, of course, that as individuals we feel incomplete.

The 1st Trust recognizes exactly where we are, and helps us to see it as a path toward personal fulfillment. What brings the personal fulfillment that we are seeking? Having significance in one's life. Career success, financial security and celebrity are often seen as the means to attain such significance, but somehow miss the mark of what is meaningful to our souls.

We are part of the world we live in - which has far more permanence than we do. The significance we are looking for must therefore benefit the world we live in, and not just our finite selves. This means somehow contributing to what we call the greater good. Before we can do that, however, we must develop our personal potential toward that aim. This is where we start on a journey of personal completion - what we call the quest - which every day offers adventures and learning experiences - if we recognize them as such. When we view life as a quest, we perceive things differently, not just as annoyances or mindless routine, but as significant opportunities to learn and grow and strengthen our abilities. In this way, even as we continue growing, we contribute to the greater good.

Begin by recognizing that there is a greater good than our normal, petty concerns and distractions. There is a greater truth than the powers that be even recognize. Once you see that, decide how you might contribute to it throughout your life in the way you live.

The 12 Trusts can provide you with a time-tested guide to get you on your way.

The 2nd Trust:

"I will place character above riches, and concern for others above personal wealth."

Here we decide what is most meaningful in our personal lives, and how it shapes the kind of person we will be.

If we do not make the decision of who we are our first true act of freedom, freedom is lost before it ever begins. We will be shaped either by happenstance or by someone else's formula. A better approach we encourage is to respond to the miracle of life with a deep resonance for the authenticity of who we really are.

A strong desire for money or fame can divert us from that process. The world is filled with distractions that would enslave us to what is meaningless and shallow. Life challenges us to resist by finding and developing who we are at our most basic level. When we see people who succeed in that, it reflects itself in what we call their character.

What does it mean to have character? It means being a person who reflects the nobility of human nature; who understands that the ability to reason brings with it a mandate for truth; who embraces conscience as the most direct source of moral decisions; who views strength as the responsibility to protect others; who values equality and justice, and treats everyone with the courtesy that they deserve. In other words, being a whole and complete person.

Having a noble character, which expresses itself through concern for others, is the height of personal achievement. We achieve this by empowering ourselves to be the architects of who we are, prioritizing commitments according to their real importance.

The 3rd Trust

"I will never boast, but cherish humility instead."

Humility is not an attribute we like to think about today. The entertainment industry has contaminated our culture with images of pretentious wealth and celebrity, along with bragging, self-important males and exploitive females. Several generations have been influenced by this constant flood of arrogant images. We feel repulsed only when people go too far. Yet even then, completely obnoxious celebrities retain loyal followers and are rewarded with profitable opportunities. The "it's all about me" attitude remains pervasive.

Along comes Chivalry-Now, trying to convince people that humility is something so special we should prefer it over prevailing attitudes.

Why do we claim that? Quite simply because it is that special. It vitally contributes to our personal authenticity and a genuine encounter with the world.

It is wrong to think that humility is the same as artificial modesty, or low self-esteem. It is a frame of mind that sets our egos aside so we can see the world around us more clearly. It provides an objectivity that pure subjectivity will now allow. It reflects the calm authenticity of a confident mind, comfortably and realistically engaged in the world. It is therefore an attribute of the noble character that Chivalry-Now presents.

It also recognizes what we know deep inside - that a gregarious ego is usually the result of poor self-esteem that we try to conceal from others. It forms an impenetrable cocoon of fear and insecurity.

The tendency to boast has nothing to do with proving oneself, or helping or serving others. Indeed, it subtracts from good intentions by glorifying oneself at the expense of an otherwise splendid act.

Humility tells us to be ourselves, and not lose who we are to false images based on ego.

The 4th Trust

"I will speak the truth at all times, and forever keep my word."

The most distinguishing feature of a noble heart is its commitment to truth in everything. Indeed, all the noble attributes, such as honor, trust, loyalty, and even love, depend upon a strong regard for truth.

Without that personal commitment, all the other Trusts lose their value, along with the ideals that provide their foundation. The authenticity of everything we consider human breaks down because reason, which is completely dependent upon truth, is a defining factor of who we are. Freedom becomes an amoral catchphrase subject to quirks of ignorance. Democracy is severely handicapped, as we see happening today, becoming little more than partisan gamesmanship. Personal authenticity is lost. Love is reduced to a commodity on which we trade. There are no moral absolutes. Values change according to whim. Relationships no longer depend on trust. We surrender the prospect of human dignity to the manipulation of illusions.

The person who speaks truth, however, taking time to reasonably know what is true before speaking, is someone who can be trusted, someone of unique value who brings to the world the insights and understanding that it needs. With truth at hand, the reasoning mind, combined with conscience (which forms the basis of Nature's Law), provides the faculty that drives us toward the excellent realizations of ourselves and our species. Without it, we lumber aimlessly at the bidding of whatever misguided notion seems most clever or profitable for the moment.

The 5th Trust

"I will defend those who cannot defend themselves."

Rising to the defense of others, we find the commitment that most reflects the knightly call to action.

Here we find the warrior spirit at its finest - a heartfelt impulse of the true warrior to protect and serve a particular community, which could be as small as a family or as expansive as the world itself.

Perhaps the words of Sitting Bull expressed it best: "The warrior is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who cannot provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity."

To what good is a warrior's strength to the human species if it not to protect the helpless? The simple truth is, as we work to define and develop who we are, we sanctify our strength and abilities and values when we apply them for the good of others and for humanity as a whole. We sanctify ourselves as creatures of moral commitment. Here we inject the kind of purpose and meaning into our lives that earned respect throughout the ages. So called warriors, or bullies, who fail to achieve that commitment, give the warrior arts a bad name.

Our time on this earth is limited. Why waste it on the selfish ambitions of mediocrity, or on cheap distraction? Why not live life directly instead, with the enthusiasm of heroic purpose? Why angrily stir the debate of dead-end issues that only serve to divide people, when there is good to be done waiting right before us? When we use our abilities for the sake of fairness or eliminating sorrow, or safeguarding lives, we reap the personal benefits of having meaningful purpose in life. Doing so completes who we are, bequeathing a sense of fulfillment that otherwise escapes us.

Strength is a temporary power that should not be wasted or misused. Its purpose extends beyond personal gain. Those who are strong are responsible to use that strength wisely for the sake of justice and the betterment of all - or civilization crumbles into chaos and war. In this way, the ongoing cycle of generations protects the future well-being of humanity from those who would sacrifice everything out of ignorance and greed. (Greed is a form of ignorance, not so much of the intellect, but of the workings of the soul.)

The attributes of this kind of warrior include:

  • An intensity for life that responds with energy and resolve to act when needed.
  • A desire to perfect oneself for the benefit of all.
  • A determination to protect one's family, neighborhood, nation and world.
  • Doing one's best in everything.
  • Being true not only to oneself but to others as well, resulting in honesty, loyalty and integrity.
  • Fairness and the willingness to stand up for what is right, even when everyone is against you.
  • Idealism infused with reality.
  • A sense of duty greater than one's own needs or safety.

As is true for each of the 12 Trusts, the mandate to defend those who cannot defend themselves has far deeper meaning than the simple words of the Trust convey.

The 6th Trust

"I will honor and respect women, and refute sexism in all its guises."

This is the modern rendition of the original chivalric call to protect and serve all women, ladies especially. It was a turning point in gender relations in the West, at least for the upper class. As with all things, it naturally evolved.

The world we live in is entirely different from its medieval roots. Most people today believe in the equality of the sexes. This, however, does not deny generalized differences. Indeed, there are a wide variety of differences within each gender, and within each family. No two people are alike. Chivalry-Now recognizes the importance and value of everyone as human beings. The proper response to gender relations is one of respect and partnership.

As one self-described feminist put it, Chivalry-Now is the counterpart of feminism. It liberates men and boys from counterproductive ideas that have hampered gender relations for ages. By replacing the image of the dysfunctional male with something more admirable, as the 12 Trusts encourage, relationships will naturally improve and everyone will benefit.

The original focus of Chivalry-Now was on awakening men, hence our first book's sub-title "The Code of Male ethics." Since those early days, many women have joined us, and we welcomed their participation on an equal basis.

In this regard, the message of this Trust seemed too limited. We therefore recognize in the spirit of this Trust the rejection of all bigotry, be it racial, sexual, ethnic, or religious. It is as much a mandate for women to respect men, as the other way around.

It is time we put questionable ideas that work against our truest values behind us and move on. The world awaits us to meet our moral obligations in the way we live.

The 7th Trust

"I will uphold Justice by being fair to all"

True justice is not limited to the purview of judges, lawyers and lawmakers. It is, first and foremost, a moral imperative for all of us to treat people fairly. Laws and legal proceedings are what happens when justice fails.

This places the very existence of justice directly on us. We give it life in the way we treat one another. It is cumulative too. The more justice that we, as individuals, bring into the world, the better things are for everyone. Since justice can be thought of as morality in action, we are obliged to add it to the world whenever we can.

The miracle of human life, with its capacity for thought and reason, and moral ambiguity makes it our obligation to embrace a positive moral code and live by it. Virtues, like justice, do not exist on their own. They are human constructs that need human commitment. We put them aside at our peril.

We know this deep inside. Indeed, the unspoken stirrings of conscience demand our participation. This explains the undercurrent of dissatisfaction that we feel when we fail to uphold them. We not only lose our sense of purpose, we deny the essence of who we are.

In this regard, justice should not be treated as something reactionary. It is a positive force that shapes our decisions in every day life. The proper use of that power is what makes us heroic. When we neglect that power, we add to the misery of life and slow the progress of humanity.

Conclusion? Be fair to everyone. Defend those in need so that justice reigns. Every person is deserving of justice. We are obliged by the very fact that we are human to give it to them.

The 8th Trust

"I will be faithful in love and loyal in friendship."

What is the truest measure of a man? That he be faithful in love, and true to his friends.

We all want the kind of love that medieval literature first introduced to the Western imagination. Romantic love - with all its promise and magic and permanence. We have long seen it depicted in movies and literature, but usually only its phase of initial intensity. Long lasting love is not something that writers seem able to portray. Their stories usually end at the point when loved ones joyously come together after some major adversity. We are left to assume that they live happily ever after, but how they manage is not shown. The most important lessons to be learned about successful long-term relationships are missing.

The essence of true romantic love, which every knight of medieval romance understood, was a full commitment of the heart and mind - a dedication that superseded everything else, and defied even the course of time. Without such commitment, without the kind of love that makes such commitment possible, couples are subject to the vagrancies of time without the wherewithal to overcome them.

Not everyone can achieve that kind of love. It depends on one's values. It is therefore no coincidence that romantic love came about with the advent of chivalry. The two are intrinsically combined. The values and principles and courtesies that chivalry espouses make the achievement of such love possible.

It is a matter of personal values and integrity. How can a good love relationship survive without honesty? Without defending one another when needed? Without generosity or faithfulness or forgiveness? Without a strong sense of friendship and loyalty? Without unselfishly recognizing how to contribute, as a couple, to the greater good, in order to validate its own significance? Without treating each other with the tenderness of courtesy and affection?

A good and lasting love relationship is seen as the highest test of chivalry. It makes serious demands upon our principles on an everyday basis. To those who manage to achieve it, however, those serious demands feel as natural and as satisfying as a summer breeze.

The secret to achieving romantic love is having a code of moral ethics, like the 12 trusts, which gives us the personal attributes capable of honoring and sustaining deep romantic love. Indeed, a solid moral code provides the prerequisite not only for everything that contributes to the fulfillment of life's authenticity.

The 9th Trust

"I will abhor scandals and gossip - neither partake nor delight in them.

According to Arthurian Romance, the Knights of the Round Table met each year on Pentecost to renew their vows. Part of their oath, administered by King Arthur himself, was the admonishment to "flee from scandal." We feel certain, by tragic events that led to the dismantling of the Round Table, that this included the avoidance of gossip as well.

It might seem strange that this elite group of warriors would concern themselves with the spread of gossip and scandal, but as noble knights they were called upon, as we all are, to do more than fight the King's battles. They were charged to serve as models of integrity. That included civilizing and morally elevating the world they lived in. The advocates of Chivalry-Now embrace that same duty.

We all know that words can be hurtful and even destructive. They are the back-door weapons of bullies, gossips and people of low integrity. The person who revels in the imperfections of others in a caustic or predatory way may feel powerful for a moment, and even popular as people listen with wide-eyed fascination - but they also mark themselves as habitually cruel and unworthy of being trusted, which belittles them as well. In the end, no one morally profits from gossip, and much damage is done.

Tennessee Williams once said that "all cruel people describe themselves as paragons of frankness." They excuse themselves by self-righteously declaring that they are just telling the truth, as if that somehow exonerated their hurtful intent. How would these same people would feel if their own mistakes were laid bare in the same fashion, and they were constantly made subject to ridicule?

Chivalry-Now calls for bringing out the best in people. Despite our best intentions, we all make mistakes. No one is perfect. The Knight on his quest knows this, perhaps better than most. The important thing is that we rise from our defeats, hopefully smarter, and aim to do better. We are called upon to help a fallen comrade, not heap on suffering and derision in the form of ridicule. By refusing to be small-minded and petty, we take the honorable path instead.

Political spokespeople and the media could learn much from this Trust.

The 10th Trust

"I will be generous to the poor and to those who need help."

Generosity was extolled by chivalry under the noble virtues of "largesse" and "noblesse oblige." Arthurian literature emphasized it as a sacred obligation to the established social order, based on loyalty and mutual affection.

While this was required from those of power (the aristocracy), commoners were expected to be virtuous, trustworthy and helpful as well. An exceptional commoner was known as a "prudhomme," a "worthy man." In the literary collection known as the Prose Lancelot, it was just such a person who instructed King Arthur how to be responsibly generous. That the King followed his advice accounted for the success of his long reign. He learned the proper way to sustain healthy interaction among his subjects through example, thus elevating the security and happiness of them all.

In today's world of abbreviated values and constant distractions, we forget that communities are not just points on a map or demographics. They are individuals, like all of us, bound by relationships with one another. Their values and behavior influence the success and happiness of their communities, including friends and families. Such values are shaped by many things, including economic opportunities and education - but the main component is simply the way that people treat one another, thus deciding mutual prosperity.

It is the obligation of the noble heart (noblesse oblige) to do what it can to uplift the poor and assist those in need. Simply put, people who are in a position to give should not only do so generously, but in a meaningful manner. Helping and uplifting one another is fundamental to the health and success of everyone within the community. This has been true since our tribal origins.

But it Is not enough just to give to those in need in order to fulfill obligations and avoid guilt. As the worthy man unsparingly told King Arthur, we should give in a caring and helpful manner that genuinely improves people's lives, thus strengthening community dynamics upon which we all depend. We are called to raise hearts, increase confidence and self-esteem, and make compassion the glue that unites us all.

Despite what some people think, we do not belittle ourselves when we raise the downtrodden. In the eyes of chivalry, we are living up to our ideals.

The 11th Trust

"I will forgive when asked, that my own mistakes will be forgiven."

When people do not forgive past offenses, the results can be tragic. Anger and hatred deaden the soul to the best intentioned spirit of humanity that we are called to nourish. Truth often become the first casualty. Gossip and slander usually follow in its wake. Clear thinking is deterred by deep-seated obsession. Justice becomes a vindictive bludgeon, or is set aside entirely. When all this happens, misery spreads and personal character is impeded, sometimes beyond repair. Families are broken; friendships dissolve; hostilities prevent reconciliation, feeding a negativity that holds everyone back.

Politics often preys upon human weaknesses to the point of encouraging people to hate one another just because they hold different opinions. This difference of opinion, the stimulus of discussion and compromise, was once considered the strength of democratic governments. Anger does nothing but breed further contempt into a contest of anger where the whole nation suffers.

It does not have to be this way. We have universally admired models of forgiveness for inspiration. Jesus. Abraham Lincoln. Nelson Mandela. Gandhi. Martin Luther King. We should do more than admire such people. We should learn from them as well.

Forgiving those who hurt us can be a difficult challenge. Animosities may calm down over time, and then an errant word brings back what was never fully resolved or expunged. We seem to have no emotional control, and that makes us victims of ourselves! This is why it is so important to change our ongoing complicity to the enslavement of unbending un-forgiveness.

The heart of Chivalry-Now encourages us to embrace life as a quest for truth, a quest for learning and growth and moral achievement. While this is a valid course to personal fulfillment and authentic living, it consists of challenges, some that seem almost insurmountable. This is the adventure of life, the hero's journey. That we occasionally fail is a given. The important thing is to try again.

The problems we face in the world today cannot be solved in a climate of anger, extremism and noncooperation. In this respect, forgiveness is the first step to finding real answers. Those who rise above this spiral of negativity will be the ones who lead the way to recovery. The advocate who is empowered by truth, compassion, intelligence and good will does not rely upon or need anger to bolster his or her message.

The 12th Trust

"I will live my life with courtesy and honor from this day forward."

Little appreciation is given to the possible benefits of courtesy today. We tend to regard it as a social accessory, used when needed to impress people. Some recognize it as pleasant niceties related to good breeding - others see it as nothing more than a means for seduction or closing a sale. In other words, courtesy is seen as either a quaint distinction of refinement, or a way to influence someone to get what you want.

For the noble heart, however, courtesy is a tangible, ever-present expression of the 12 Trusts in our lives. It is the natural and unassuming response to chivalry's commitment - reflecting the self-refined character of a true Knight. Quite simply, it is the honorable way to treat people.

Courtesy should never be limited to a way to act when certain occasions call for it. In every aspect of our lives, it provides an ever-expanding cultural dynamic that nurtures positive relations, even among strangers. People respond well to expressions of respect that contribute to their comfort and self-esteem, and carry that sense of well-being beyond that particular exchange. The ripples on a pond idea illustrates the possibilities of good deeds echoing throughout eternity without our knowledge.

In contrast, a lack of courtesy or, even worse, the insult of discourtesy, convey the message of either ignorance, contempt or rude self-importance - the very opposite of what today's chivalry is supposed to foster. Ripples can be good or bad. We cannot know who later suffers because of an errant word.

Consider some of the possibilities:

  • Courtesy contributes to social harmony by providing benevolent structures to all relationships.
  • It breeds not only friendships and good-will, but confidence in knowing how to handle oneself in many situations. We become more socially competent, which expands our potential.
  • It proactively dissolves barriers to communication, encouraging cooperation and sharing of ideas.
  • Courtesy honors the unique value of every person, thus promoting self-esteem.
  • It actively encourages and supports the nobility of human life, which sets the stage for fine accomplishments.

Courtesy also provides a tangible way for each of us to project the essence of Chivalry-Now in everything we do. It attractively differentiates those who bring the 12 Trusts to life from those who do not, by appealing to what is best in people already. It reflects innate ideals that will complete and fulfill who they are. In this way we cultivate honor in our lives, and people respond in kind.

(Please note: a downloadable copy of the 12 Trusts, suitable for framing.)


Want to Know More about the 12 Trusts?

Read the book that started it all, Chivalry-Now, the Code of Male Ethics, available through Amazon.


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