In this episode of the Manlihood Mancast, Josh Hatcher talks about what it means to be a gentleman.
What it means to be a gentleman
The word gentleman has more connotations than it does definitions. It is important to clearly define what it means to be a gentleman, and to rid our minds of the mixed up messages we have often attached to the word.
I remember as a boy, well-meaning women teachers would use the word “gentlemen” to try to convince a class full of rowdy boys to sit still and be quiet.
Some boys, enthralled by the compliment of being referred to as “men” compiled. Most boys, offended at being called “gentle” didn’t comply.
I was often in the second category.
The word also conjures a cartoonish picture of a gentlemen of the Victorian era, in suit and bow tie, with a monocle and his hair parted in the middle.
He is not Popeye, Fred Flintstone or Yosemite Sam. He isn’t heroic or strong. He responds to tough circumstances with fear, or at best, really bad boxing form.
To this caricature, being gentle means being week.
To be a gentleman is not about being proper or mannered, or pedigreed or less likely to fight.
To be a gentlemen means to have honor… we give things and people the proper value, and treat them in a way that shows honor to their value.
That means showing courtesy and politeness when it matters.
That means showing respect where it is due.
That means treating people with kindness, and in some cases tenderness.
It also means defending that honor when sometime shows dishonor.
To be a gentleman is a choice to live in a way that shows honor, and return then deserves honor.
Chivalry is not Chauvinism
Maybe it’s because chivalry and chauvinism both involve men and how they view women…. Maybe it’s because they both start with “ch”… But the meaning of chivalry is often mixed with chauvinism.
- the medieval knightly system with its religious, moral, and social code.
- knights, noblemen, and horsemen collectively.
- the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, especially courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak.
- exaggerated or aggressive patriotism.
- excessive or prejudiced loyalty or support for one’s own cause, group, or gender.
I don’t know if anyone even realizes they have connected the two words. I think it happened unconsciously somewhere around the time of the cultural revolution of the 60s.
I’ll be clear… that revolution for some very good things for women. There were many ridiculous ideas about women and their worth. Truly “male chauvinistic” ideas.
To be a gentleman is to value things rightly. To honor and respect women.
That sounds like chivalry to me.
Offering to hold the door for a woman didn’t mean we think she is weak. It means we want to show her honor.
It is polite to hold the door open for people, right?
Gentlemen show manners not just because of social norms or old fashioned rules… rather, that politeness comes out of a drive to honor people, to value people.
I can’t say that it will be ready to separate the cultural associations between chauvinism and chivalry, but we should strive to model that we are men of honor.
Gentle should never mean weak.
Erase that image from your head, and make sure to erase it from the minds of those around you.
I’ll never forget wrestling with my father when I was a boy and even a young man. My dad had some military training, some martial arts training, and years of brawling and fighting behind him. He was stronger than any man I knew.
He definitely showed that strength while we rolled around in the living room floor. He could have crushed my head, snapped a bone, or really seriously hurt me. But he didn’t. He was gentle.
Being gentle is not being weak. It is moderating and controlling strength.
The Allegheny River flowed through our backyard. We were twenty miles from the source, so some would have called it a creek. A very deep swimming hole right on our backyard used to draw young people from town who wanted to cool off in the brown water.
Many of those young people were very disrespectful to my dad’s property, and to my dad himself. He would hear kids cussing or fighting, or catch kids littering or even driving or drugging, and would walk down the river and set them straight. I watched boys and girls day things to my dad that should have been greeted with a smack to the face. But he always kept his cool. He would very firmly ask them to leave. If his eyes got fiery, those kids would scatter. Once in awhile, a young man would need to be physically removed. Dad had the strength and knowledge to cause serious harm. He never did.
That’s gentleness. That’s a gentleman. In control of his strength.
Courtesy and Kindness Go a long way
As men, we long to be known for our strength, or ruggedness. If we are not particularly strong, we may have shifted that to a desire to be known for our intellect or creativity. Either way, what each of us want, is supremacy. We want to be the best. We want to be the smartest. In fact, we often lie to ourselves very subtly, to tell ourselves that we are the best and most important person in the room. Even those who may take up the mantle to fight for the downtrodden seem to share this character trait. You see it from the Twitter feed of “social justice warriors” and even the old men swapping fish stories at the corner store over coffee. It’s human nature to put ourselves at the center of our own world.
A gentlemen shows a great that butts against this. Courtesy. Kindness.
To put someone else’s needs ahead of our own clashes with our own inner beast. And it often inspires the same response in others!
Let me challenge you directly, men. There are others who are smarter and stronger. And even those who are weaker and not as smart that need you to defer to them sometimes. They need you to step up and show kindness, politeness.
There are people that just need a smile, a laugh, a friend.
They might need you to offer a helping hand, or even make a sacrifice to help meet a bigger need.
I believe showing kindness goes against human nature, which is about self. Kindness though is built in is too… it’s built in because we are made in the image of God.
Let us never forget the kindness others have shown us, and let us live indebted to pay it forward in acts of love and service
Of Courtship and Flowerpicking
TRIGGER WARNING: I’m about to talk about old-fashioned ideas about relationships and sexuality. Don’t listen if you can’t handle the fact that I might hold ideas that you think are outdated or prudish. Better yet, listen anyway and give it some thought. The worst that can happen is you might be exposed to someone else’s viewpoint. Most likely, you’ll see that I’m a reasonable person.
Somewhere in our 50 Shades of Tinder and snapchat soaked generation of “thirsty” bros, we’ve completely abandoned some old school ideas that I think really matters.
Yes. I’m old fashioned. I’m okay with that. If you think differently than I do – I am not judging you, I’m not offended by you, and I won’t disrespect you.
I think sexuality should be reserved for marriage.
I think sexuality should be gentle, not degrading.
I think that dating shouldn’t be exclusive, and should have strings attached.
I think courtship, or “going steady” should be done carefully, and with the goal of marriage in mind.
I have a lot more old fashioned ideas about this. But I think this is enough to give you my framework.
When it comes to courtship and dating (and yes, there is a distinction between the two) there’s something a man must do. HIs toughness, wildness and strength is not TAMED by her – but rather, he is RESTRAINED for her.
He treats her gently, picks flowers for her, braids her hair, and as such, she sees in him the true beauty of his affection for her – his RESTRAINT.
If a man cares for a woman, treating her gently does not neuter him, does not tame him, does not make him any less tough – no – it’s a chance to prove his love by showing restraint.
I think that if he jumps the gun, and enters into a sexual relationship before the proper time (in my opinion, after marriage) then he demonstrates not restraint, but rather shows her his lack of self-control.
That same restraint is important in the bedroom after marriage as well. He reserves his sexuality only for her. He also continues to treat her gently.
Our porn-saturated culture has normalized the degrading of women during sex. I think that a true gentleman does not descend to calling a woman names, or inflicting pain during sex. That isn’t love, and shouldn’t be portrayed as such.
No matter the stage of your relationship – to be a gentleman, you must exercise self-control!
Remember, men, gentle does not mean weak. To be a gentleman means to be a man in control of himself.
Want to weigh in? Comment here, or log in to our private facebook group – The Manlihood Mancave to discuss this with other men!
Interested in more Personal development for men? Check out our website at Manlihood.com for more info!
Don’t forget to check out our partners:
Hatcher Media – Creative Marketing Solutions | Graphic Design | Video Production | Web Design | Content and Social Marketing