When writing about the topics of being what could be considered in modern society a “gentleman” or a “lady,” I am often surprised by the backlash. Whether it is being called a sexist for actually recognizing the biological and behavioral differences between men and women, or those who feel personally insulted that they may not act in the ways I have mentioned, one learns quickly it is impossible to make everyone happy.
The fact of the matter is that the recognition of any differences between people has become taboo. It has become taboo to discuss because it can be interpreted, by some people, as meaning some are “better,” and some are “worse,” even if those words are never used.
For this reason, society’s expectations for social conduct have plummeted. Think of how people used to get dressed to go on a plane, or restaurants that required jackets for gentlemen to dine there. Small things like this are now seen as a nuisance, and there is maybe one restaurant left in Boston that requires men to wear jackets, if that.
This makes the modern day gentleman even more respectable, though. It makes him more respectable because there is no societal requirement. He holds himself to a higher standard because he wants to, not because he has to. There is a famous quote that says “Being a male is a matter of birth, being a man is a matter of age, but being a gentleman is a matter of choice.”
So, what choices does the gentleman make differently to set him above the rest?
A gentleman treats everyone with respect.
Regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other involuntary characteristic a person can have, a gentleman does not categorize. He sees those around him as human and treats them with the respect that he would expect them to treat him with. Since a gentleman does not discriminate, there is no basis for unfair treatment towards others in his mind, everyone is equal.
He understands that his kindness towards others is not based on who they are, but on who he is. Because of this, it is unwavering.
A gentleman does not allow himself to be walked on.
There is a difference between showing kindness towards others and letting yourself become a doormat. Part of having respect for others is also having respect for yourself. A gentleman who has respect for himself will never let himself be taken advantage of.
Give others the benefit of the doubt and the gift of your kindness, but if they do not do the same, a gentleman will understand they do not meet the standards of those who he accepts into his life, and he will move forward.
A gentleman will always be improving himself.
As an extension to the previous point, in order to get respect from others, you first must have it for yourself. This means taking care of both your physical and mental well-being. In a photoshop-ridden society, our generations certainly appear to value surface over substance, but a gentleman understands the importance of what goes beyond the outer shell.
Whether it is reading books, listening to lectures, watching documentaries, or any other education medium he prefers, it is important to not lose sight of improving the mind while also working on improving the body.
A gentleman values his family and relationships.
More important than professional accomplishment and success, is cultivating the relationships with the people whom you will share it with. A gentleman will understand that no matter how far he makes it in life, it is better to be in a cottage with people he loves than it is to be in a mansion by himself.
A gentleman isn’t afraid to be wrong.
Many people in today’s day and age seem to have an incredible avoidance to being wrong. They will take a stand on a position and never allow new information or evidence to change their mind. This puts up a stone wall around your current base of knowledge and allows no room for expansion beyond it.
The only way to learn or grow, is to be wrong. Only when you are wrong do you absorb new information, change your stance, and subsequently become “right.” Without the ability to admit a mistake, there will be no lessons to take from it.
A gentleman is cool, calm, and collected.
In a fast paced, constantly-changing world, it is an asset to be able to slow down the mind and keep things in perspective. A gentleman will have (or work to develop) the ability to not be perpetually stressed out. He will take life’s ups and downs in stride, and understand that night is always darkest before the dawn. Even when problems arise, he will work through them with determination.
This will prevent him from becoming overwhelmed and making poor decisions or treating others badly.
A gentleman always keeps the woman in his life happy.
It is important for a gentleman to hold high standards for how he acts when he is in a relationship. This includes never mistreating her or taking her for granted. Always valuing her and showing her that he does (not just telling her). He will understand that the effort it took to get the type of woman he wants, is the same effort it will take to keep her, and that a lady would never accept being taken for granted any more than he would.
He will never lose sight of doing the small things that make her happy.
A gentleman always takes pride in how he presents himself.
Whether it is how he dresses or how he speaks, a gentleman understands the importance of a first impression and how he is perceived. No, this does not mean he lives his life on other people’s terms or is always looking for validation from them.
What it means is, he understands the importance of making a good impression and expanding his personal and professional network. A man who takes pride in who he is and how he presents himself will find more opportunities coming his way, as he is desirable to spend time and engage in conversation with.
Gentlemen are a rare breed in today’s society. It is important for men to strive for these ideals as well as for women to show the men their efforts are appreciated and recognized. While many men reach for these qualities without any need for outside influence, we can also assume that more would put in effort if they knew how much of a difference it would make in their life.
But if they don’t, gentleman cannot be afraid to separate themselves from the crowd. The effort they put into living the best life they can comes with a reward that many others will never receive: The accomplishment of that goal.
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