Is Chivalry Dead? (Should It Be?)

Knights Castle

It depends on where you are. It certainly doesn’t seem to be dead in the South, especially in smaller towns. Where I live, men, and even teenage boys, still say “ma’am” and still hold open the door. To which I graciously reply, “Thank you.”

Of course, I’m not impartial to this. My husband and I do medieval re-enacting, where this sort of thing is encouraged, and even taken to higher levels. At reenactments, I don’t even carry things for myself–men do the carrying for me. This isn’t because I’m weak–I can carry 50lbs of horse feed without any problem–but because it’s polite.

This give and take is beneficial for both people. Volunteering to help others is a good habit to develop, and letting others help you is also a good habit. It takes a certain amount of humility to allow someone to help you. To refuse to allow someone to hold open a door or pull out a chair is very egotistical, because all you are thinking about is yourself–how capable you are, and how you need to demonstrate your prowess. By allowing someone else to help you, however, you suppress your ego.

Judaism has an interesting concept: it’s a good deed to allow someone else perform a mitzvah (good deed or commandment) towards you. By humbling yourself, and allowing someone else to do a good deed for you (so they get the spiritual credit for it), you actually do a good deed too, and also get spiritual credit. It is not only good to do for others, but it’s also good to be done to as well.

And while a lot of people focus chivalry on men doing things for women, it is applicable in so many more situations. While my husband normally does for me at medieval events, I do things for him too, such as help him get into or out of his armor, keep him hydrated, and I have even stood behind him with a parasol, keeping the hot sun off both of us at the same time.

Helping others feels good, and politely and graciously accepting help is not only character-building, but it encourages the recipient to return the favor to others, making a self-perpetuating cycle. Vive chivalry!

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