By Justin Gates
When I talk about family, I am speaking to a few different things;
Loyalty and Devotion
Loyalty and Devotion
A Knight is Loyal to their ideals and is loyal to doing what is Right and Just, devoted to their betterment and those around them. You have to understand that loyalty and devotion are virtues and must be used with temperament as in all things. Loyalty and devotion are critical motivators for people like you and me who journey this path in our lives. We feel a solid connection to our ideals, our beliefs, and the people in our lives. Loyalty is a strong word and invokes strong feelings for most of us; it certainly does for me.
Those who use Energy to guide and empower them are loyal and devoted to its study and practice. Those who believe in a particular theology are loyal to God(s)/Deity(s) that guides and empowers them. And still, some walk a path that is difficult to name and define, which contains a combination of the ‘powers’ mentioned and are loyal to a more ‘Mystical’ existence.
These beliefs are deeply rooted in most of us and typically make up the foundation of our allegiances and loyalties. This devotion is usually the strongest of all. A Knight respects and is devoted to their Order, the leadership, and their brothers and sisters. Strength is found when a group of like-minded individuals is devoted and loyal to a common goal and cause. Learning, sharing, and unity are signs of dedicated and loyal members. However, there is an exception to this; some individuals prefer a more solitary path and may not find this integral part of their path. It is important to note that communion should still be a part of your practice so that learning and growing do not become hindered.
Last but not least, a Knight is a loyal and devoted person to their chosen friends and family and those people in their charge. Of course, a Knight is a person who already has a propensity to protect and serve others, so it is not a stretch in the least to find that a Knight is loyal and dedicated to those they love and are entrusted with.
Relationships are vital and should be developed in a healthy and nurtured way. Loyalties are a big part of the path and existence of Knighthood. We could list and discuss many other things here, but I have narrowed it down to the most foundational for a Knight. We are creatures who are communal by nature. We have chosen a path where being with others and not only giving but gaining their loyalty is paramount, however;
Don’t be that person who does things against your moral and ethical compass and then uses the excuse “I was just following orders.” Your choices should come from a place deeper than your loyalties. Be loyal to people who deserve to enjoy your commitment and give it in return. Be faithful to those until they no longer deserve your loyalty. Be devoted to an Order or group that promotes and behaves in a manner that matches yours, inside and out. Be loyal to that Order or group until they lose their way and no longer emulate an image that you can be proud to be a part of. Be loyal to the ideals and beliefs that help you hold the line in the face of adversity and unbeatable odds. Be faithful to those ideals until they no longer serve you, and then be open and willing to find new ones that do.
Compassion is such a powerful word for some. For others, just a fancy buzzword that they like to throw around to show others how much they “know,” how much they “care” for others, to show how much they “belong” to a particular philosophy or group. Sure, most people would argue that everyone knows what compassion is, but to those who know what the word means, do we know what it is? Do we take Compassion one step further from our minds and put it into action wisely? Or is it yet just another fancy buzzword on the parchment of someone’s philosophy?
Webster’s dictionary (dictionary.com) defines compassion as:
“A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”
Most of us have felt the deep need to help others through their pain, to help them through a really tough time, to feel “sorry” for someone else. Yet, so very few of us act upon this deep urge wisely. Compassion is more of a state of being than it is a state of mind. Compassion is knowing when to step in and help and when to step back and allow things to happen to someone. I want to take the word and meaning of Compassion one step further. For a Knight of Awakening, the word compassion does not just mean to help others through the most challenging times in their lives; the word compassion means for us undying Love and Respect. To treat others in the highest regard, not for any other reason other than our compassion for them, for all things, that to have compassion is to have the highest respect for life.
Compassion is an excellent tool and an outstanding attitude to have when dealing with the world and all of those who share it with us. It does not mean that you have to give your last dollar away, and it certainly does not mean that we have to all join the Peace Corps. What we should be striving for and developing is a Compassionate state of being. That state of Being where we understand and respect others and the things that bring us together, the common threads that hold us all together, and not so much on what makes us different from each other. So how can we apply compassion to our lives to find a Compassionate state of being? Here there are a few things we can do in our lives to start to increase our compassion towards others;
“Judge not lest ye be judged.”
We have to take a non-judgmental approach to others and their situations as much as possible. Part of the Knights’ journey is to unlearn what we have learned and recondition ourselves for the better. Go out of your way every day to keep yourself from judging two things. Give that a few weeks, and then up the ante to say five things or people you can interact with, or situations you deal with, without first prejudging what you see.
The “Golden” Rule
Treat others as you wish for them to treat you. You have heard this for as long as you can remember, but it is important not to forget how wise of a thought it is.
For us to learn to be more compassionate, we must first understand what it is that we expect from others. Once we know how we want others to treat us, we will naturally follow suit and treat others compassionately and respectfully.
Walk a mile in another person’s shoes.
In many situations, it can be challenging for us to understand what someone is going through if we are not willing to put ourselves in their place for a moment to see what they might be experiencing. I know that there will be those times where we cannot possibly know what another is going through, but we can strive to understand nonetheless. You should not be detached from those around you. You need to participate in the chaos of life and actively participate; you will find yourself in a better position to have compassion, mercy, and be non-judgmental.
Learn from every single interaction.
When dealing with someone or a situation, try and learn from what is going on. Always remember that what is happening to this person can very quickly happen to you someday. If you helped them through this issue, you have not only gained a potential new friend and ally, but you have also gained valuable knowledge for the next time that you face a situation or person that may be similar! Compassion is a compelling word, but even more powerful is its use in our daily lives. You certainly can change the world, one person and one situation at a time. You do not have to have superpowers to save the world; all you need is a heart big enough to Love and Respect it. The goal for a Knight is not to “act” in a compassionate manner all of the time, but to BE compassionate when dealing with the world around us, especially when dealing with ourselves.
That’s what Family is for
Sometimes, however, we need help from our Shield Brothers and Sisters, our family. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the oaths we take and the standards of conduct we promised to uphold. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the responsibility that we are entrusted with by our colleagues, by our friends, by those who respect and trust us to do the right thing.
Suppose we cannot hold ourselves accountable for our promises to uphold those standards we were entrusted with. In that case, we must be held responsible. Let me share something that Charles McBride once said since we are on the topic. I will let Charles’s words finish off our discussion on “Family.”
If every time you see a Knight fall, you say to them, “you are no Knight,” or “you are not acting Knightly,” you do nothing for their fall. Remind them instead of the virtues they uphold, remind them of their training, and encourage them to seek clarity and focus. The path is not a title to be used to encourage right action, nor is it a cookie to be rewarded. It is a path. As such, it is to be walked upon, to fall upon, and to even question the value of walking down it. However, a person walks a path for the destinations, for the joy of walking a path. In this, remind a Knight not that they have a name attached to them, but the value they have in the path, the training they have endured, and the purpose they have sought.
A lot of discussion goes around the Knightly Path and those paths connected to them, with possibly the greatest question we ask is; when and where are we to have compassion for those on the path? The very nature of the Knight is taking on a path of virtues, and in those virtues, we expect a lot from these people. They have to be courageous in the face of adversity, just, merciful, generous, faithful, and noble and must inspire hope. So what do we do when someone fails in these areas? What is our recourse when a Knight abandons acting with integrity, and we can no longer put faith in them? What do we do when a Knight has become ignoble and causes more harm than good?
The first question we must ask is, can the Knight be redeemed? Some actions might distance us from them for all time; for example, a Knight harming an innocent for gain, without reason, without excuse, and without taking penance for that action certainly would fall into that realm. Yet what if they are repentant and seek to grow? What if they had bad reasons for what they did? The question other Knights must ask then is whether not if we are angry but if we can still put faith in them. Do we believe then that a single evil action is irredeemable and shows that they can no longer be trusted? It is hard to evaluate lip service from the truth of intent, but it is our job to determine this first.
In determining this, we gain an insight into the metal of the Knight. We must temper justice with mercy when evaluating fellow Knights. If we remove a Knight who is in error from us because we are acting injustice without mercy, all we have done is ensure they will act in that way again.
When we as fellow Knights shun them, cast them aside, or put shame upon them, all we have truly done is force them away from us. While there are times for a harsh glove, if it is worth keeping a Knight with us, then we will not need to create shame upon them. They will be doing this well enough for themselves. Further, even if we should put distance between ourselves and one we once recognized as a Knight, we must do so in a way that allows us to extend a hand in the future. It is important to understand the difference between a Dark Knight who we do not associate with, a fallen Knight who has lost the way but still seeks the path, and one who has turned against the Knightly ideals completely. Rarely, a Knight should truly turn against the ideals unless, for them, the name means nothing more than lip service. In remembering this, we are tempered by our virtues than to do better for the fallen Knight, to provide an example that might inspire the Dark Knight back toward the full path and a stern wall against the pretender seeking praise.
An important thing to understand then is that if we do cast a Knight from us or intend to shame them, we have committed to our understanding that they are no Knight. We are then saying that their action was not a mistake, not a slip, not a choice made wrong, but a direct willful violation of the Knightly Ideals. We are making it clear we do not ever expect them to do better, nor do we expect them to grow or change for the better.
This is a very harsh stance, and it must be understood that such a statement should be treated with the same finality you would want a divorce. One does not simply get married to get divorced, nor should we so simply and easily cast a Knight from us. It is easy on the Knightly path of focus on the virtue of justice. It is perhaps the most focused on virtue for many Knights. This is because we live in an unjust world. We live in a world where we have met with injustice so often that we seek to change it.
We become crusaders, the worst kind of Knight, and all evils are permitted then in our self-righteous drive to change the world. In this, we become Dark Knights, forces of destruction aimed with surely a good intent but a terrible application.
We should strive to never become such a thing, and if we find we have, we should retrace our steps back to the Knightly path and virtues. These will anchor us. When we carry mercy in our hearts and nobility in our souls, it is hard to strike down with hate. When we inspire hope and are generous to those with less than us, it is hard to push away our fellow Knights. We must always remember when we are at the pinnacle of being Knightly; we have much at that moment. We have the stability of soul and heart that our fallen brethren lack when we are at the pinnacle of the virtues. In being at that pinnacle, it is incumbent upon us to then extend our hand to Knights that have fallen. To do anything less is to turn our back on the virtues. Yet we must also be ready for our falls and moments of acting as Dark Knights. We will make mistakes with others, this is unavoidable, and all that we can do is learn from those.
In learning, we can express that understanding. If every time we fall or move to darkness, and we then come back to the virtues, we will fall less and less. We will find that justice and mercy balance each other more and more, and the pull to crush a fallen brother becomes transformed into a dire need to reach out to them to lift them higher. It is this transformation a Knight must undertake. Know this; you will fall. You will also get back up if you come back to the virtues each time.
Awaken the Knight Within!