Knight In Shining Armor: Man or Myth?

The Knight in Shining Armor. It’s a rather big issue today in our culture of fairy tale heroes, hot actors, and saintly lovers. Many girls have a specific Wish List for their future Prince Charming—perhaps tall, dark haired, with a dimple in his left cheek. Or cute, humorous, manly, and with a winning grin. Or all of that put together. You name your type. Catholic girls want all that and the strong-in-his-Faith, morally upright, chaste man.

(So, guys, if you can’t be all that then go home, be depressed, and eat chocolate…Oh, wait, you don’t eat chocolate when you’re down, do you? I forget, that’s usually a girl thing.)

I’m sure many guys feel that way though; I’ve heard many of them complain about the “I deserve somebody perfect” attitude that creeps in everywhere with the ladies.
Recently I asked one of my guy friends, “So what do you think about the whole knight in shining armor idea?”

He looked at me with his quizzical smile and laughed. “Hah, yeah, knights! It depends which girl you talk to. I admire girls who have high standards, and girls should have high standards. But I would like to ask some of them, ‘Are you marrying Jesus Christ?’ and then, are you so prideful that you think you are perfect and deserve the perfect guy?….You know me, I love knights and medieval stuff. The best knights are the ones that fight. A priest told us that real warriors get dirty and bloody and fight and get back up…every guy wants to be like that. That’s badass.”

The perfect knight….he’s always fresh and clean, always at the top of the lists, always ready to sit on a throne and host a feast almost as if he’s never ever been in the grimy gore of battle (hint, maybe he never has). Thus far he has never been an underdog, never professed to struggle with serious offenses, never missed going to church. Sounds perfect, right? But… If he’s never grappled with temptation then how do you know he will resist temptation in the future or get back up if he inevitably happens to fall?

The real knight…he’s almost always fighting, upholding the dignity of women and children, protecting his lands from harm. His sword and armor are in perfect condition—full of gore and dirt and dents in battle, cleaned and repaired each time afterward. He needs to be prepared this way because he always has a new fight to win. He knows the inside of the confessional, and he’s not ashamed of it. His hands aren’t perfectly white because— like Edmund Pevensie, Aragorn and Faramir, William Wallace, and Iskander Bey—they have the scars of enemy wounds that he fought off and defeated. And he never stops standing strong.

I have to agree with my friend’s idea of the best knights. I want the real man that knows defeat and perseverance and final victory.

So… now you’re thinking, Great, all the guys I know are either creepers or never seem to have committed big sins. Wait, ladies! That’s the wrong attitude. I never said to marry a man who goes out, gets stoned every weekend, and buys porn. And I never said not to marry a man who never lost his virginity, never missed Mass on Sunday, or never snapped at his mom. (If you got the latter with your fighting knight, wouldn’t that be ideal?) Pray God leads you to a man who fights a good fight and rises every time he falls. Where are you going to find an honest, humble, brave man? Good news: every man crashes at some point in his life (just as every one of us ladies does). Focus on finding the ones that get back up again.

And, meanwhile, I think we could benefit from reevaluating our definition of “perfect.” Perfection is not the soul that never struggled or tripped over sin. Rather perfection in a human being is reaching for the highest goal regardless of how many times it involves smashing flat on one’s face and jumping up again to plunge onward. Except in Jesus Christ and Our Lady, original sin is a given. Perfection for us equals loving sacrificially, persevering continuously, and striving for union with God.

And as much as it wounds our pride to say so, we imperfect women don’t deserve the “perfect” man. Under the circumstances, even living with the perfect man is a debatable joy. How could we live continuously with our faults if we thought we were never good enough for an impeccable guy? But that’s another story. The point is that we are not deserving of the man God will introduce into our life. He knows it, we know it. God blesses us by making us worthy anyway because we are his beloved daughters.

But there’s a final twist to this whole idea of knight, warrior, and battle. In the 1999 film adaption of An Ideal Husband, Lord Goring urges Gertrude Chiltern (Cate Blanchett), “It takes great courage to see the world in all its tainted glory and still love it. And even more courage to see it in the one you love…”

Perhaps the issue really lies in our womanly hearts. Lord Goring finishes, “…dear Gertrude, you have more courage than any woman I know. Do not be afraid to use it.” Is it perhaps our girlish hearts that are the weak ones? Maybe afraid that when our knight falls, rises, and keeps fighting that we ourselves won’t be able to do the same?

It’s much easier to pretend that the two in a relationship are both perfect. However…

If I desire a man who will run with me and take the lead, I think it is fitting that I should live up to my own standard. Then I know that the warrior I desire will come to me.

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