05 Jun Awakening Chivalry In Young Men
I was no more than 5 years old when it happened. We were living on a U.S. military base in Germany. My father wore the rank of major in those days, and I thought he was the most impressive figure in the world. He was still in his uniform one evening as we walked out our front door to the family car parked in our driveway.
That’s when Dad first said the words that changed me forever. “Open your mother’s door for me, will you, Stephen?” That was all it took.
I remember being puzzled. I looked at Mom. I looked at my father. I looked at Mom. I looked at the car door.
Until that time, Mother had always opened car doors for me. Now, with a single sentence, my father embedded three truths into my soul. Actually, his words alone didn’t plant these perspectives in me. I was made for them, but Dad’s words awakened their meaning.
First, when I looked at my mother in the moments before I opened her door, I saw her differently than I had before. She was a strong, athletic woman. At that moment, she seemed vulnerable even delicate. She stood with her hands folded in front of her and with a slight smile on her lips. She was beautiful. She hadn’t changed, of course. I had begun, in a matter of seconds, to see her as someone who I should care for. Dad’s words created this understanding.
Second, I realized in an instant that my opening the car door for my mother had nothing to do with who was more capable. Mom was, obviously. The issue, though, was that I was a boy. Boys care for girls. Dad had told me that before, but he had never asked me to act on it and had certainly never asked me to act on it regarding my mother. Suddenly, being a boy came with a duty. This was heady stuff for my 5-year-old brain, but I was beginning to get the point.
Finally, Dad had asked me to care for Mom, for him. “Open your mother’s door for me,” he had said. I couldn’t have explained it at the time, but this new business of caring for Mom was something Dad and I were supposed to do together. He had passed his job on to me for a moment. I felt it. I was under a commission. I wouldn’t have known what a commission was back then but I knew what it was to feel part of Dad’s role — of a man’s role — in the world.
Never has a door been more gallantly opened than Mom’s was on that evening in Germany.
Like all men, I am made to take up the responsibilities of manhood, which includes caring for those around me. We tend to call this chivalry, a gift of our medieval ancestors. We men are to be knights, living in defense of women, of a just society, of good in the world and of the will of God. We are made for such a life, and it lies dormant within us until it’s awakened by a call to the duties of chivalric manhood.
My father knew these things. At the age of 5, I did not, nor would I for years to come. What I did know then was that my father asked me to take on, for a moment, his role in caring for the woman in our life. He asked because I was his son. He asked because I was a boy. He asked because my mother deserved to be honored in such a way.
I felt the first stirring of chivalry in my soul in those moments. And I’ve wanted to be a noble knight ever since. It started with my father, one sentence and a duty to fulfill — because chivalry is waiting in every boy’s soul.
HOW TO:Draw Chivalry Out of Boys
1) Early in life, a boy should be taught that being a boy comes with duties. Parents should not hesitate to answer the question, “Why do I have to do it?” with these words: “Because you are a boy.”
2) Boys need healthy male role models in their life (dads, grandfathers, uncles, coaches). Men should make boys their partners in chivalrous acts — honoring women, caring for the needy. And boys should see themselves as part of a greater body of chivalrous manhood.
3) Adults should narrate to boys the world in light of chivalry. Read a news story about the elderly being abused. Then explain, “It would take just a few noble men to deal with that situation.” Boys start to understand: Good men are the answer.
4) Use books and movies to teach chivalry. With boys, capture the imagination, and you can win the heart in order to shape the character. Chivalry sleeps in young boys. Stories can awaken it.
5) Expose boys to virtuous, heroic men. Ask a war hero who’s a family friend to dinner and urge him to tell stories. Visit a police station. Ask the officers to explain why they serve. Experiences like these shape destinies.
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