Saturday, April 13, 2013

Who is a Gentleman?

This is a point of confusion. Most people are not certain who a Gentleman truly is. Many, when asked, reply that a gentleman is a male-someone who is generally "nice" or "polite." He opens doors for ladies, recycles, brushes his teeth, keeps his pants up, drinks with moderation, and never curses. He might even say "thank you" or "please" now and then - "sir" or "ma'am" if he's really heroic. While even these basic civilities are rare to come across in the modern male, most Gentlemen sigh at these standards, not because they are wimpish, but because they overlook who a true Gentleman is.

If asked, most males would reply that opening doors for ladies is a Gentlemanly thing to do. They are correct. However, when asked why it is a Gentlemanly thing, there are usually two responses. The first comes from those who were taught to open doors for ladies, were taught it was good, but were never taught its significance. It is to them a matter of habit. In their minds, the reason is irrelevant. Society has agreed it is a nice thing to do, so they do it to be nice and only nice. Their depthless response is, "I don't know. It's how I was raised."

To this the true Gentlemen brings together two patient hands and says, kindly, "You're education in door-opening is incomplete. It's only half done. You know the wherefore, but not the why." He may email you the link to this blog afterward. Perhaps he has.

The second response is from those who genuinely want to be Gentlemen and make a noble effort to become so. They tire of crass and selfish living. So to form civil habits, they force themselves to open doors. Because they act by themselves, they don't go far before trying to sort it out. "Why is this considered Gentlemanly?" he asks himself. "What makes it so?" His is the same problem as the first's: an incomplete education. Only, his response is different, because he's hypothesized his own why to the wherefore, though it is usually wrong: "Men open doors to keep ladies from straining themselves."

A true Gentleman knows a woman is a strong creature, and fully capable of opening her own doors. Many women, even, resent the second response and would rather let themselves into houses before being derogated by well-meaning males. Bravo to them. Meanwhile, the Gentleman applauds the aspirator's efforts, but comments, "You've got the motions down, but that's all you've got."

"Pardon me, madam - you entered with such ease I mistook you for a man."
Were we to trace the custom of door-opening to its beginning, we would discover that, originally, a Gentleman would open a door for a lady because he valued her comfort above his own. He was seeing to it that she was safe, warm, and away from the hostile elements of the outdoors before he dared lavish such securities on himself. It was a petty thing: it took a mere moment to do, and was soon forgotten. Nevertheless, it was a philosophical expression of honor toward the woman, because it elevated her needs above the male's.

This is who a Gentleman is: a male-someone who is willing to dispose himself to others.

This goes beyond making sure people's fundamental needs are met. A Gentleman will not stop at giving a hungry guest a bowl of soup. He will go further, and make sure the guest is comfortable and has a pleasant time eating. If the guest spills his soup, the Gentleman will do all he can to spare him embarrassment. If the guest is allergic to soup, the Gentleman would have found out before it was served. If he did not, an apology will be in order, as well as ready suggestions for an alternative dinner. Though a Gentleman does not belch or slurp, he will follow suit if his guest does.

A Gentleman is a male-someone who makes those around him comfortable. Gentleness is critical here [hence the word, Gentle-man], because gentleness is always pleasant. Nothing puts people at ease so much. Nothing is lovelier than a person who puts others before himself. "What is desired in a man is kindness..." the Psalmist says.

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