“Chivalry” – does this word have any meaning in the 21st century? Does our new generation know what it means? Do previous generations know the origins of the Chivalry Code?
When I ask people what chivalry is, they often reply with the answer “chivalry is how to treat a woman like a lady; opening doors, picking her up and getting out of the car to greet her, giving her your jacket when it is cold, etc.”
What’s worse, in today’s world of gender equality, chivalry is just a meaningless word. At times, it is frowned upon if displayed. I remember a situation where I opened the door for a lady walking behind me. Instead of a polite head nod or a “thank you”, I received the comment “Chauvinistic pig; do you think I am incapable of opening a door myself?” Instead of being upset at the person delivering the comment, I was upset at the death of chivalry in our society.
At the same time, I hear countless complaints that men are no longer men these days, leaders have no code of ethics, industries inability to display integrity in their product or service, employees lack loyalty and the lack of empathy and compassion in all types of relationships.
Chivalry Is NOT For Men Only! It’s a Behavioural Code For All Sexes!
But how is the lack of chivalry impacting current civilisation? Firstly, let’s get one thing straight, chivalry is not the art of ‘how to treat a lady’. That is only a fraction of its purpose. Chivalry is the code of conduct, a moral system of noble humans. Chivalry covers contribution, faith, voluntary self-restraint/moderation, truth, wisdom and courage.
Yes, chivalry has changed as times have changed. However, to understand chivalry in its purest form, we need to understand its origins.
Origins Of Chivalry
The origins of the word of chivalry is of old French, from the word chevalerie, meaning “horsemen”. The term came from a time when horsemen were warriors who fought mounted on horseback. In the middle ages, these men were called knights.
Knights (who bore the responsibilities of leaders, defenders and warriors) were expected to follow a moral system to display their worth for being followed. Therefore, a code of conduct was required. The moral system went beyond the rules of combat and promoted qualities idealised by knighthood, bravery, honour, courtesy and respect towards women.
In the violent era of the medieval period, a knight was not just expected to have the skills and the strength to be victorious in battle. He was also supposed to control his aggressive side and display his empathetic and compassionate nature. Therefore, a moral system was created to guide the knights on how to show empathy and compassion.
The Knights Code of Chivalry
The Knights Code of Chivalry was a significant part of the medieval culture and understood by all. Chivalry displays four core behaviors – empathy, integrity, authenticity and taking responsibility.
There are quite a few of these codes, most of which do not suit modern day beliefs. I have carefully selected seven core codes that I believe are crucial in today’s era.
1. To protect the weak and defenceless
As a leader, it is our responsibility to protect those that cannot protect themselves. This code is tricky, as one must understand the difference between a rescuer and a protector. A rescuer overprotects and victimises. A protector only serves those that ask for it – verbally or through their actions. This code displays empathy and acts of service.
2. To refrain from the wanton giving of offence
Words are a powerful tool for both creation and destruction – display integrity through your words and actions. In today’s world, this will be refraining from gossiping, bitching and bullying others. This code demonstrates self-control and integrity.
3. To obey those placed in authority
To be a leader, we must know how to follow first. It is your responsibility to obey your authorities. If you find yourself in circumstances where you do not trust or respect your authority/leaders, then it’s your responsibility to leave or change it. However, until such change takes place, you will need to obey them. This code shows integrity and displays your commitment to your word and your tribe.
4. To guard the honour of fellow knights
“Your fellow knights” refers to your tribe; colleagues, family, partner, teams and close friends. As a nobleman/woman, it is your responsibility to protect those in your circle form themselves, others or situations that may jeopardise their honour. This code demonstrates loyalty to your peers.
5. To keep faith
Always believe that your visions will succeed, have faith in yourself, in others good nature, in God/the universe, or whatever else you hold close to heart. Faith is what makes man strive and move forward. A man without faith will never taste the joys of victory. This code displays loyalty to your beliefs and the birthplace for integrity and authenticity.
6. At all times speak the truth
There is no honour in lying to protect others. There may be times where this rule may contradict the above rules. For example, speaking the truth may be offensive to others (Code 2). Sometimes you just need to gain some courage and speak the truth; other times know that speaking your truth is also saying that you “do not wish to discuss the topic” or mentioning your “discomfort in the situation”. This code is all about integrity to your word. We lie to only to hide behind our insecurities.
7. To respect all women
In today’s era of equality, this code needs to be changed to “respect all sexes!” Males, female and transgender. Common examples are men’s lack of commitment to bringing more women to leadership roles, or, some women using the feminist movement as an opportunity to disgrace all men. This code is most likely the most important code that is missing in today’s era. If we aim for a world of equity with harmony, we as humans need to be the solution to the issues that involve all sexes.
Just for a moment, imagine if you lived a life which honoured these seven codes. How much success will you have in your life endeavours? By living by a code of integrity, empathy, ownership and authenticity; what kind of empowering relationships will you create? Imagine running a business or government officials acting and honouring this code, how much trust and faith will you have in them?
Chivalry is not opening doors for others; it’s far greater than that. It is opening doorways to authentic living. It’s creating trust within yourself and those around you. More importantly, it’s about becoming a noble leader, valued and inspired to be followed.