A timeless system of ethics

Modern society still benefits from spontaneous acts of kindness

Matthew Dyck

I believe in chivalry.

Knights today are defined simply by respect and courtesy.

There’s something about the idea of chivalrous action that separates the mature from the immature in my mind. Selfless consideration is maybe the best way to term modern chivalry since we currently have a lack of dragons and jousting.

It’s also important to note that modern chivalry is not only for men. Everyone requires saving every now and then and it takes just as much courage for a man or a woman to come to the rescue.

Since we don’t have much use for the medieval specifics such as armour and valiant steeds, we can focus on living out the goals chivalry was meant to accomplish: developing maturity, kindness, honesty, loyalty and selflessness.

Thus, I see chivalry as a code of ethics and a road to solid character centered on respect and consideration.

In the medieval era, many young boys of nobility were sent to live with knights as part of their training to become squires. Squires served the knights by accompanying them to battle and tournaments, and maintaining their armour and weapons.

To be dubbed a knight was a great honour, one that only other knights and nobles could do, and it was something of a rite for these young noblemen. They were passing from boyhood into manhood and agreeing to live by a creed toward God, king and country. Their new position and creed determined every aspect of their lives and it was to their duty to honour it.

Generosity, courage and humility were among the required character traits for a knight. He was also charged to defend the weak, avoid treachery, lechery and arrogance in his rank and power.

The point of becoming a knight was to do right. There was nothing selfish or vain about it.

In the 21st century, we cannot adopt a total medieval notion of chivalry with all its rituals and regalia. It is rather the action, emerging from exceptional character, of which I believe we are capable.

Why should people live with a selfless posture, aspiring to help people and live with courage and humility?

I believe a world in which everyone is like this would be a great world to live in; the alternative, on the other hand, would be disastrous.

Imagine walking down the street and ignoring an old man who spilled his groceries on the ground, or driving past a car that needs assistance by the side of the road.

Foreign aid wouldn’t exist and neither would any social programs.

How would you feel if you needed help and there was no one to give it?

I know that I require assistance a lot: at work, at home, with my friends. Perhaps I call on a coworker to help me with a project because I’m already too busy to handle it alone, or I need a friend to give me a ride because my own car is in the shop.

I greatly appreciate the support of other people and I’m very willing to offer my own.

Modern chivalry is needed in every situation of every day.

It can be simple.

Opening a door for someone is a popular example. When someone does it for me I feel appreciated and I know that person considered me as worth the effort.

The same is true when I, for example, hold the door for someone. I’m saying, “You are valuable and I want to do this for you for no other reason.”

Maybe you’ve heard about the spontaneous, contagious generosity occasionally present at the Tim Horton’s drive-thru window: people decide to pay for the person behind them in line and that person chooses to do the same. This kind of rampant kindness is, I find, heart-warming.

I believe chivalry is more than important— it is vital.

Kindness, selflessness and charity are part of what it means to be human. Men and women who live with this type of attitude will be like fresh air to those who meet them.

You get what you give; chivalry spreads goodwill.

I, for one, am encouraged when I witness a bit of gallantry: opening a door, helping out on the highway, defending a friend— fill in the blank yourself.

Keep an eye out and be someone’s knight.

Thomas Guenther is a freelance writer who lives and works in Winnipeg.

Published in Volume 67, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 12, 2012)

Related Reads