It is no accident that a thought on chivalry would be raised in the Valentine’s season. I have made many observations and asked many questions. Here is something of what I have discovered…
In my world, chivalry is being defined by the women. And it is often defined in negative terms: they wistfully define chivalry as being something that is dead, or at very least by what they do not see/experience from the men in their lives. The bell continually tolls to signify and mourn the death of chivalry. My thought here is that chivalry, or gallantry, is not lost or dead and does not need to be resurrected. It is a seed, or a spark, that exists in all men. Some men exhibit it naturally, others have to search for it, others require someone else to help them draw it out.
The dictionaries use many words to define chivalry: courtesy, generosity, military strength and valour. I would be so bold as to summarise it as meekness and humility, qualities that Jesus happened to specialise in: the possession of strength and power, tempered by the choice of restraint or specific focus. I can’t help but notice that while these things all appear to to learned behaviour, they all stem back to identity: who you ARE. A man can act in a courteous manner, or courtesy can be a defining characteristic of his character. Behaviour of this nature cannot flow out of weakness in an attempt to compensate or cover a lack: it must flow out of an abundance of strength, consistent with and representative of one’s character. Yes, this does exist in every man, but it must be given the chance to become more than a spark.
Guys, chivalry is not about what you do: how you open the door for a lady, consider her needs, are sensitive to her feelings, offering your strength when she needs it. These things are all great things to do, but if they are just actions, they mean nothing. Any sleazebag or serial rapist can come across as being considerate, understanding, protective… Any man can act in a chivalrous manner towards a lady that he likes: it’s wired into who we are – do whatever it takes to get the girl! The test of chivalry is to see how you treat the other women in your life. Your mother, your sisters (both natural and ‘adopted’), your friends, even the cleaning staff or checkout operator at the supermarket? Do you ‘spend’ your strength on those?
Girls, if you’re just looking out for roses or chocolates this Valentine’s Day, please wake up and realise what it’s all about. I refuse to buy into this nonsense of buying something for someone just because the calendar instructs me to. Valentine’s Day is a day for lovers in our culture, but has also been an excuse for all women to be the beneficiaries of chivalrous acts. I wish to be generous in all that I do, giving liberally from all the strength and resource I have, but the expectation of that robs it of its wonder. Chivalry is a gift – something you can desire, but not something you can take for granted. Ladies, please give the men in your world space to shine. Expectations and fear of misunderstood intentions extinguish the spark of chivalry that exists in every man.