[DFT] Fw: [ChivalryToday] Never Say Sorry

Seanan seanan.dft at gmail.com
Thu Jul 7 18:27:30 PDT 2005

Chivalry Means Never Saying You’re Sorry

By Scott Farrell, ©2005


“It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” Attributed to
philosophers from Confucius to U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper,
this little axiom has become something of a touchstone of the
American way of thinking. There’s practically no one today who
doesn’t recognize the unspoken message behind those seven words: I’m
going to do things my own way, ignore the rules and flout convention
in order to achieve a goal — and if I get caught or things turn out
badly, well, I can always apologize in the name of expediency.

Harmless as the “forgiveness axiom” may seem, there is an insidious
violation of the principles of the Code of Chivalry lurking just
under the surface. A knight must be trusted — by allies, by
colleagues, by subordinates and by superiors. While “asking
permission” is sometimes (or perhaps “often”) a frustrating and
sluggish process, clear communication is a vital component of the
knightly virtue of faith. When communication breaks down, whether due
to intentional lies or evasive silence, trust dwindles rapidly.

The “forgiveness axiom” is quoted with increasing frequency these
days. It’s used as a rationale for deceptive or irresponsible
business practices, but it is also cited as a means of excusing rules
violations on the sporting field and (perhaps most chilling of all)
to justify breaches of marital fidelity.

Christine de Pizan, the woman who wrote the 15th century military
manual entitled “The Book of Deeds of Arms and of Chivalry”
understood the temptation to seek after-the-fact forgiveness as a
means of “getting the job done.” Christine admonished knights to
avoid this unchivalrous practice, and to deal openly and above board.
She wrote:

“When a knight acts without authorization, the result is prejudicial.
A knight should certainly not act without the consent of the overall
commander and even so only after careful deliberation.” Christine
explained that a knight who cannot be trusted to communicate with his
commanding officer is likely to engage in other deceptive practices,
such as stealing from the army’s coffers for his own profit or taking
bribes from enemy agents. She urged medieval leaders to never
tolerate such behavior from their knights; modern leaders would do
well to follow her advice.

The “forgiveness axiom” not only tarnishes a knight’s reputation for
honesty and faithfulness, it also diminishes the value of mercy,
another of the knightly virtues. Let’s face it, when someone
apologizes after flagrantly breaking the rules, are they really
expression contrition — or are they just saying, “I’m sorry I got
caught”? And with such a track record, when that person later does
something they truly regret, such as hurting a loved one or
innocently breaking the law, does their apology carry any weight, or
has it become nothing but hollow words?

Whoever first uttered the “forgiveness axiom” would probably be
appalled to see what it has become. Certainly there are times when
unapproved, independent action is necessary, when a knight needs to
go outside the rules in order to serve the cause of chivalry and
honor. But in such cases, the Code of Chivalry dictates that all
other avenues be exhausted first, and that the rule-breaker stands to
accept the full responsibility of his or her actions rather than
hiding behind the shield of ersatz remorse.

Permission is a function of communication, and without communication,
trust and faith wither and die. Chivalry means being trustworthy and
faithful, and never having to say you’re sorry for neglecting to ask


What’s New at Chivalry Today?

- “Arabian Knights” – a new essay reveals chivalry’s roots in the
culture of Islam;

- New thoughts and explorations of the knightly virtues in “Chivalry
in Other Words”;

- A list of suggested “Student Projects” to help teachers, students
and parents explore the Code of Chivalry.

Enjoy them all at www.ChivalryToday.com


Readers are permitted and encouraged to share this article with
others as a way of furthering the understanding of the Code of
Chivalry in the modern world. Scott Farrell's seminars on chivalry
and the knightly virtues are available to businesses, schools and
civic organizations throughout the Southern California area; more
information can be found on our website. Please include all copyright
statements and attributions when forwarding Chivalry Today articles.
Copyright 2005 Scott Farrell and Shining Armor Enterprises. Visit our
website at www.ChivalryToday.com .

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