Basic Training: Perfecting the Self

The Glory of God is man fully alive!” – St. Irenaeus

The Basic Training level of The New Chivalry Project is about self-perfection. However, we should be clear at the outset about the nature of this self-perfection and the motive for it. It is not about self-aggrandizement, cheap thrills, personal satisfaction, self-actualization or self-enjoyment. It is not, in fact, about me at all. Nor does it look like the world’s version of self-perfection.

Self-perfection consists in allowing God to form your total being, body, mind and soul, into the person that He created to be.

The reason for seeking this is in order to serve others more effectively, and to please God more fully.

That’s it. That’s all it is.

Basic Training: Perfect the self.

  1. Daily Prayer: This is a commitment to a dedicated prayer time. It is not praying in the car, or while doing chores, or while doing anything else. It is time set aside to do one thing, and one thing only, which is to speak with God and listen to Him. The length of time should be long enough to be at least a little bit challenging, without being so long that you cannot maintain even a nominal concentration for that length of time. I recommend a minimum of 15 minutes per day. However, once a length of time has been chosen, whether it be 15 minutes or an hour, let nothing prevent you from achieving it, every single day. If that means getting up early or going to bed late, so be it. A consistent time and place helps, but if life happens and your normal schedule is disrupted, commitment means that you must still make up that prayer time some time during the day.
    Also, there is no multi-tasking or time management during prayer time, just as there should not be multi-tasking or time management during family time. The point of multi-tasking and time management during the rest of the day is so that we will have uninterrupted leisure time for what matters most. Our relationship with God and with other people is the reason for everything else we do. Therefore there is no multi-tasking during prayer or family time.
  2. Daily Study: Make a commitment to stretching your mind, heart and imagination by reading at least 15 minutes everyday. If you don’t have time for reading, get an audible subscription and listen to audiobooks while you commute. You can listen to:
    • Spiritual reading
    • Philosophy and the Great Books
    • History
    • Great works of fiction
    • Poetry
    • Current events, business, economics.
      The point is not to study “useful” things, but to expose your mind a little bit every day to something that will expand your horizons, give you food for thought, and help you grow, both intellectually and emotionally.
  3. Daily Training: I deliberately speak of daily “training” rather than daily “exercise,” because training encompasses much more than simply exercise. This includes such pursuits as shooting, martial arts, sports, horseback riding, hiking, skiing, swimming, survival training, etc. The common denominator is that it should involve your body as fully as possible, and demand enough exertion to force you to be uncomfortable in order to improve, and that it should be a long term pursuit that you can continue to make progress in for years.
    Daily Training can also be thought of as Daily Practice. Most of us have hobbies or interests that we would like to pursue, but which we “just don’t have time for.” Daily practice is the commitment to at least a short time every day in which to practice that hobby, to develop that talent that God has given you.
  4. Daily Self-Denial: This is an act whereby at least one time per day you freely choose to deny yourself some good thing that you really want. Things that do not count as self-denial are:
    • giving up vices (they are not good so you shouldn’t be doing them anyway);
    • if someone else forces or coerces you into it (that isn’t freely chosen);
    • you don’t really want it anyway (that isn’t denial if there is no desire to deny).
  5. Daily Act of Charity: This is an act which you would not otherwise do, freely undertaken for the good of some other person. Things that do not count as an act of charity:
    • You were going to do it anyway, and saw that it happened to benefit someone else;
    • someone forces, coerces or shames you into it (not freely chosen);
    • it isn’t truly good for the other person, e.g. buying cigarettes for your uncle who is “trying to quit.”*Note, #4 and #5 can be combined in the same act. For example, if your wife asks for help with a chore, and you are playing a video game, you can willingly and cheerfully get up to help, in which case you are both denying yourself the video game, and undertaking an act of service for another person.