In the current discourse, there is a lot of discussion about what men 'shouldn't' be. It is important to call out bad behaviour, entrenched biases and call a stop to attitudes and actions that are unacceptable. There has had to be a call to arms to halt damaging behaviours and attitudes, but as we go through this process, it begs the question; What is a gentleman in this day and age?
Is a gentleman a gentle-man? Is a gentleman a rough and tumble, one-of-the-lads kind of knockabout guy? On a first date does a gentleman pay, or does a gentleman split the bill, or let their date pay? Does a gentleman get in fights? Or does a gentleman always walk away? Are they book smart? Street smart? A smart arse?
What is a gentleman in this day and age? Well, I’ll give you my thoughts on the matter.
A gentleman pays attention. All the time, to all the people, things and environments that he is around. A gentleman pays attention to what people are doing, what they are saying, what they need and where they are. A gentleman pays attention because attention is the first step to understanding, and a gentleman takes the time to understand.
Understanding is knowing when to pay and when to split a bill. Understanding is knowing when something is hurtful, mean or upsetting and when something is actually just a bit of fun. A gentleman fights from time to time, but he fights for what is right, he fights for what is just and he fights for people who can’t help themselves. A gentleman doesn’t fight for his own ego, to prove a point or to try and get one-up on someone. When someone says or does something to deliberately offend a gentleman, if there is an opportunity to walk away, a gentleman walks away. A gentleman knows that someone who is doing this deliberately is really the person who is hurting. A gentleman knows that someone who does this by accident didn’t mean it, because a gentleman assumes good intent.
The gentleman can walk away because he is not easily offended by others, a gentleman knows his own mind and keeps his self-esteem strong through the influence of his own actions. A gentleman is not concerned about easy likes or quick wins at the expense of others, and doesn’t concern himself with the attempts by others to unsettle him.
A gentleman is playing the long game. Developing himself through the good times and the bad to be the best version of himself in every situation. A gentleman is a strong man, but strong in the sense that he nurtures his strengths and works on his weaknesses. Always striving to be the best he can be, a gentleman may be physically strong, but he may also be smart, kind, thoughtful, studious or any other combination of virtues. A gentleman is vulnerable, because only by being vulnerable can a gentleman ever truly be strong in any aspect of his life.
A gentleman is respectful. Respectful of differences in sex, culture, language, race, social status, body type, hair colour, socio-economic standing, job title and any other point of difference between two people. A gentleman is respectful of experience and wisdom, because a gentleman is striving to achieve these things and he knows that they take time, effort and patience. A gentleman respects any other person who has taken the time to cultivate these qualities.
A gentleman is open. Open to learning, open to loving, open to participating. A gentleman will be scared of things but do them anyway. A gentleman will face his fears head on, without delay. A gentleman sets goals and works to them, knowing that no-one is responsible to the attainment of these goals but himself. Being open, a gentleman will be open to help, open to asking for help and open to giving it in return wherever he can.
A gentleman knows the difference between right and wrong, and always chooses right. Even if it means personal sacrifice, a harder road or losing face. A gentleman chooses justice over convenience and actively keeps eyes open for injustice, in order to work towards balancing the ledger for those who need it most. A gentleman is honest. A gentleman looks after his family, his peers, his friends and those who are fortunate enough to come across a true gentleman. A gentleman seeks ways to build a world where everyone is looked after in some capacity, wherever they are.
A gentleman prefers knowledge over ignorance, kindness over dominance, strength over capitulation, hard work over idleness, character over dishonesty and virtuousness over underhandedness.
A gentleman seeks the example of the gentlemen who have come before him, to take the best of them and learn from them. To take the worst of them and learn from their failings. A gentleman knows that no gentleman is perfect, but that in the search for perfection we might attain something that gets close.
A gentleman knows that doing the right thing is easy when things are going well, but that doing the right thing when times are tough is how strong character is forged. Character is the foundation of being a gentleman. Deciding who you want to be and relentlessly pursuing the best vision of yourself in every moment, of every day in every way. A gentleman is the best version of himself, and he is proud of himself for doing everything in his power to be that person.
A gentleman is a good person, a real person. A person that cries, laughs, feels and acts for the good of others. A person that takes the time to understand themselves, and understand others. A gentleman might be physically strong, but is absolutely strong in character. A gentleman might be or may not be of superior intelligence, but will always seek wisdom. A gentleman knows to Just Be Nice.
In every culture, we get tend to get more of what we applaud. Aspirations are set by expectations. If instagram followers are the standard by which your character is judged, people will aspire to have lots of followers. If wealth is the sole measure of worth, then at all costs, people will aspire to accumulate wealth. If a culture of character-led gentlemen is one that we aspire to have, then we need to actively get behind people who live those characteristics. We can move the needle through calling out bad behaviour, and we can move the needle by applauding those who are exhibit the very best of what we could be.
Everyone has the capacity to be a gentleman. The best time to start is from when you were born, the second best time is right now.
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Just Be Nice
A collection of articles relevant to pursuing the effective execution of altruism in the search for equality of opportunity.