Chivalry’s Sensible Legacy

Manessische Liederhandschrift, Image by Wikipedia

“Though the practice of chivalry fell even more sadly short of its theoretic standard than practice generally falls below theory, it remains one of the most precious monuments of the moral history of our race, as a remarkable instance of a concerted and organized attempt by a most disorganized and distracted society, to raise up and carry into practice a moral ideal greatly in advance of its social condition and institutions; so much so as to have been completely frustrated in the main object, yet never entirely inefficacious, and which has left a most sensible, and for the most part a highly valuable impress on the ideas and feelings of all subsequent times.” ~ John Stuart Mill


I once inadvertently upset a young woman by holding the door open for her. She took offence to my gesture, interpreting it as a chauvinistic power play rather than a gesture of respect. I wrote it off as a poorly executed sign of the times, where young women are eager to assert themselves in a show of equality. I must admit, though, that I continue to hold the door open for women of all ages to this day.

The incident did stick with me over the years (hence this post!), and I think that part of the tension that surrounded the young lady’s heart in the matter is rooted in a misunderstanding of equality. Equality is not sameness. Men and women are different from one another and I believe that it is healthier to respect those differences than to smother them through political correctness.

There is no doubt in my mind that there are women who are smarter, stronger and wittier than me. Stereotypes based purely on anatomical differences are foolhardy. Women are no more the “lesser of the species” than they are from a different planet.

Men and women, when comfortable in their own skins, complement one another wonderfully. They exist along a spectrum – from “girly-girl” to “manly-man” with significant overlap in the middle. That said, some of the most masculine men I’ve known possessed a surprisingly sensitive side while some of the most feminine women have proven to be the toughest and meanest creatures I’ve known.

Whether you believe that men and women are the product of evolutionary forces or the crowning achievement of a divinely designed world, it is clear that we’re both here for a reason. A friend of mine in high school used to joke about women being “obsolete fertile vessels” when he read about test tube babies and oddly enough the young lady who was most offended by his poking ended up marrying him several years later. Obsolete? I highly doubt it. Pigs will fly first.

We need one another. The line, “You complete me,” made famous by the movie “Jerry Maguire” (or was it Austin Powers?) is a great way to look at it. We are two parts of a whole, not opposites, and our differences are what makes the union so powerful, meaningful and creative.

The principles of chivalry also apply to generational differences, in fact, many of the principles of chivalry can and should be exemplified and taught to children at a very young age. Giving up a seat for an adult or not talking balk, for instance, are perfect symbols to children of how the different sexes can and should relate later in life. Respect is a fundamental building block of chivalry.

There are many implications to the continued practice of chivalry that I hope to investigate further with you in future posts and I hope that you take no offense to me holding the door open for you as you take steps to develop a deeper understanding of the topic.

Good day!


7 thoughts on “Chivalry’s Sensible Legacy

  1. Isabelle Kearney

    My husband is one of the most chivalrous men that I know – he’s always a gentleman – opening the door, walks on the “car” side of the sidewalk, carries the heavy things and that’s just to name a few. Any time we can be generous, respectful and considerate to another, it’s a sign of true manhood and womanhood.


  2. Joshua

    Following a day of consideration I thought I would add this…..
    It seems to me that we each carry the responsibility of holding the door open for others in our actions and in our hearts. Specifically in relation to those small attitudes that “We seem to think go unnoticed”. It is in such small matters, and attitudes that determine where we are at in our experience and how effective our giving and assistance can be to others. I have identified a few areas in myself that could use some shoring up in this regard, and for this I appreciate what you brought to focus today!
    Exciting times we are in!
    Have a great night!


  3. Lydia

    As my son was growing up, particularly in his teen years, I saw on a number of occasions the reaction when he gave up his seat on a train or bus to a women or an older person. People were always surprised, showed genuine appreciation but usually with a trace of suspicion.
    Chivalry isn’t extinct but it has become rare in this frequently dangerous and unapproachable world. I think the question that lingers in the air after such courteousness is, “what are you looking for?” When the recipient starts to realize that it was sincere act of respect and kindness,you begin to feel the possibility of the genuine tie that could bind us all.


  4. Joshua

    Taking no offence is the key to understanding, and my’ thorough appreciative for your being the gatekeeper through this post, “Holding the door open” for all who aspire to greatness through the living of an uncommon life!
    Greatly appreciate what you provide here, and would never take offence to anything that was offered by you for consideration, and certainly not for holding that door open!
    Thanks Gregg,
    Appreciate this consideration!


  5. I love for a man to hold the door open for me! I really don’t understand how anyone could perceive that as a power play. And I like a manly man. Not an arrogant man but a strong man. After all a man is supposed to be a man and a woman a woman. There is a difference for a reason.

    I try to teach my grandson these things all the time. The other night as we were leaving a friends house he wanted to hold a friends hand and I told him no. Of course he wanted to know why and I told him boys don’t hold hands.

    I think there might be too much mushy gushy friendliness on tv these days. men hugging and being overly friendly for any little reason. Not enough boundries for young one to get a firm grasp on.


  6. Colin

    Chivalry is an easy way to show that you respect other people. You can’t go around in life thinking you are the greatest thing to ever walk the earth. Even if you would have been, that attitude is an automatic disqualifier. Reading the initial quote makes me wish that we could have a new system that was equally as ahead of its time. Thanks for another great post.


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