Be Chivalrous

On Being a Modern Gentleman: 

Guideline 3: Be Chivalrous

Chivalry is dying. It flails about, gasping for its last breath, unsure–in its last days–if it is an outmoded Medieval concept regarding military bearing and honor or a system of ethics concerned with charity, generosity, and morality. While I’m interested in the first, the Code of Chivalry, a Medieval system born of the French chevalerie, I’m not advocating that anyone pick up their lance and begin writing sonnets to their chaste love interests. I can’t even say that I’m interested in gallantry, an Early Modern period attempt to revive chivalry and inoculate it with emerging Renaissance ideals, really.

It’s 2014, and the world has changed. The ideals of our forebears are, for the most part, inapplicable. I would charge you, readers, to become chivalrous in a different sense. Put others first. Do first what is good for others before you seek to gain for yourself.

Kenelm Digby argued in 1822 that “chivalry is only a name for that general spirit or state of mind which disposes men to heroic actions, and keeps them conversant with all that is beautiful and sublime in the intellectual and moral world.”

While Digby’s work was pedantic and an idealistic portrait of the Medieval era (don’t bother reading it), the above statement still rings true and, I believe, is particularly relevant to today. I charge you to develop a state of mind which leads you to heroic actions, even if those actions are small and trivial (e.g., opening a door for someone, volunteering at a homeless shelter, or giving a kind word to a stranger) and to be more aware of all that is beautiful, astounding, and inspiring in the world. It can’t hurt, and you may find that you like it.

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14 thoughts on “Be Chivalrous

  1. Yet another tip that can apply to both genders, I love it. I don’t think chivalry is dead. I just think that like so many other things it is evolving to fit a very different population of people.
    I am always one to hold a door open, or even open a door for someone (especially if they have their hands full) just to give them a hand and make their day a little nicer and easier, and to show that someone cares.

    • You’re absolutely correct! That spirit of kindness and generosity goes so well with the Digby quote, “Chivalry is only a name for that general spirit or state of mind which disposes men to heroic actions, and keeps them conversant with all that is beautiful and sublime in the intellectual and moral world.” I tend towards hyperbole though, and thought that tolling the death of chivalry was a nice start.

  2. It starts with parents. If we want to see polite people who put others before themselves, then we need to show our children a good example by doing this ourselves. Love this topic.

    • Being in the education field, I see too many children that weren’t taught to be polite and considerate of others. It is truly unfortunate. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Thanks for stopping by! I completely agree, and, being in the education field, it is astounding how many children aren’t taught to be polite and considerate of others. It may be nostalgia speaking, but I feel as though previous generations did a better job of this.

    • Too many parents themselves don’t understand compassion and good manners. Working in education, I’m confronted every day with parents that are even worse than their children.

    • I’ve found that in many cases, chivalry is born of compassion, or at least out of mutual respect. Though modern chivalry is quite different than its progenitor, the knight’s code, which was sexist and classist.

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