I looked up the dictionary definitions of the words chivalry and courteous. I wanted to see what the dictionary had to say about these two words as they are not used very much anymore. I found that the words have a lot of the same descriptor words listed in each of their definitions. So, I dug deeper to find out where both words originated and found that both words originated in the middle ages from Latin words that evolved over time into the English words we use today. Interestingly both words use each other to define themselves, that is, the word courteous uses chivalry to define itself and the word chivalry uses courteous to define itself. Polite and respectful were also two words that were used to define courteous and chivalry.
A Scout is courteous
One of the Scout Laws is that a Scout is courteous. A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along. For instance, it's true that for a lot of us, when we think about Scouts (before being part of Scouts), you envision a little boy in uniform assisting a feeble, elderly woman across the street. Nostalgic, though still, this image encapsulates the very essence of Scouting. Selfless service. Saying please and thank you… those things can be considered courteous and chivalrous. Do you hold the door open as you exit a store (whether you’re male or female)? It seems like a polite and respectful thing to do. Of course, it's hard to hold the door open for someone if your hands are busy texting or messaging someone.
There was a book written in 1986 called All I really need to know, I learned in kindergarten. Children were taught in Kindergarten that you needed to say please and thank you and be courteous and polite and respectful to those around you. Scouts still teach these things and I think that it is a lesson that needs to keep being taught. I also read somewhere that "courtesy is a heartfelt expression of respect and consideration" and everywhere I look, it seems that courtesy and respect go hand-in-hand. You truly can't have one without the other. Respect can be earned but never demanded. One way to earn someone’s respect is to treat them courteously.
Robert Baden-Powell said in the book that started the Scouting Movement, Scouting for Boys… “In the old days the Knights were the real Scouts and their rules were very much like the Scout Law which we have now. The Knights considered their honor their most sacred possession. They would not do a dishonorable thing, such as telling a lie or stealing. They would rather die than do it. They were always ready to fight and to be killed in upholding their king, or their religion, or their honor. Each Knight had a small following of a squire and some men-at-arms, just as our Patrol Leader has his Second (or Assistant) and four or five Scouts. … You Scouts cannot do better than follow the example of the Knights.” The founder of the Boy Scouts taught that Scouts were to follow the Code of Chivalry and one of the important points of that Code was that the knights were courteous. The Knights had a code of ethics that they strove to live out each day, in actions and not just pretty words.
Courteousness is a set of standards or ideals of the truest and best of us. And, far from being outdated, these standards are just as real and just as applicable today as they were in the past. As Scouts, it is our duty to strive to live up to these standards in our everyday lives. Scouting isn’t just about a set of mental and physical skills, it is also about character. This is what makes Courteousness one of the important Scout Laws. I challenge you to make the teaching and doing of the act of courteousness seriously. Put it into practice in your everyday life, lead by example.
Thanks for reading this post! Do you have any comments, thoughts, or questions? I’d love to hear them! What do you think is the role of courteousness in the modern world? Please share it with us in the comment section below!