Oaths and Honesty – Being Truthful About Personal Chivalry

Even the most honest and sincere of people seem to have blind spots when it comes to their own sense of truthfulness. It was certainly true of medieval knights - who were notorious for breaking vows of loyalty when it was personally or politically expedient

Scott Farrell comments:

Here’s a joke … A child comes home from school one day with a note from his teacher. The child gives the note to his mother who reads it, and sees that the boy got in trouble when his teacher caught him stealing a pencil off the desk of a fellow student. “Johnny!” says the boy’s mother. “How could you do this? You know that stealing is wrong! Besides, if you need a pencil, you just have to let your father know and he’ll bring you home all the pencils you need from the supply cabinet at his office!”

Even the most honest and sincere of people seem to have blind spots when it comes to telling “harmless little lies.” It was certainly true of medieval knights – who were notorious for breaking vows of loyalty when it was personally or politically expedient – and it is certainly true of people today in just about any profession you can think of. Thus, it’s easy to point claims of hypocrisy when someone who has indulged in a little “selective dishonesty” does something to affirm their trustworthiness – like taking an oath of fealty, or making a “truthkeepers” pledge, or going to confession to absolve a list of “sins.”

But as Dan Ariely, author of the book The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty»  points out in this educational video, oaths, promises, and pledges – like those taken occasionally by medieval knights in their quest for the code of chivalry – may serve a very important function with regard to our own sense of personal honor and honesty. These are not just hollow commitments to promises we never intend to keep. These sorts of statements actually help us all reaffirm and reestablish our own dedication to the principles we want to follow. This quick video lesson reminds us all that it is worth taking a few minutes from time to time to refresh our own commitment to the virtues and ideals we want to internalize – like honesty and loyalty.

(It is also interesting to note in this video how many images of knights, kings, and characters out of medieval legend pop up in the illustrative animation. It is clear that these chivalric characters are indelibly associated with the pursuit of truth and honesty.)
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About Scott Farrell

Scott Farrell is the founder and director of the Chivalry Today Educational Program. He gives dozens of live presentations on the history and values of chivalry every year at schools, libraries, and civic and professional organizations throughout Southern California. His thoughts and conversations on chivalry can be heard worldwide every month on his Chivalry Today Podcast. His essays on the code of chivalry have appeared in numerous magazines and books, including Living A Life Of Value (Jason Merchey, editor) and the forthcoming Martial Arts And Philosophy (Damon Young, editor).