We have heard that chivalry is dead. Well, good, chivalry has nothing to do with being a gentleman and everything to do with being a knight. Last I checked, we weren't still lancing each other off of horses to prove points, we have tanks now for that. But what we can take from chivalry, is the expectation and ideal mannerisms of a knight. Of course, for our century this needs to be add to.
So what makes a gentleman? Generally speaking, we can all identify men who are gentlemen, but not necessarily what all attributes to being a gentleman. Being polite is only the tip of the iceberg. We all know someone who is polite, but we wouldn't necessarily call them a gentleman.
- Treat everyone you meet with decency and respect. Sounds simple, and granted, we expect this. However, let's address that we are all humans and judge one another. You can try and claim you do not, but you would be lying to yourself. It is a healthy and natural way for us to prepare for situations, and sometimes we may be wrong, and that's why this is first. Decency is simply treating someone with dignity. And this is the source of our "golden rule" which I will not insult you by explaining, but instead remind you this is because no matter who you or they are, we all are facing the struggle of life. From this, we naturally show respect, in fact respect is within the definition of decency. Now do not confuse this with people earning your respect. In that regards each person is different, and few in life will earn your respect. Treating individuals with respect, regardless of situation, will always put you ahead in the situation. Life experiences will show you that the person who remains respectful in all situations, is often viewed in a better light, regardless of if the person is wrong or not.
- Be knowledgeable, and be informed. Simply put, you cannot treat everyone with decency and respect if you are not somewhat knowledgeable and informed. We will encounter people of different beliefs and cultures. You do not need to conform to their culture or belief, but you should know how to interact with people. This is not to say you must know all the time of all people and cultures, but instead if you know you'll be in that situation you should make an effort to inform yourself and grow as a person in knowledge. The most common complaint, world wide, about tourists is the tourists' failure to learn even basic methods of communication. If you have ever been to a theme park, you will know how this can be extremely frustrating for both parties. But being knowledgeable is far greater than that. Growing in knowledge is self improvement. If you are ever stagnant in learning, you are wrong. This is not to say you must attend high levels of education. Not at all. Today's society is in an information dump, vast amount of information is available at your fingertips. Global events, science, culture, art, history, is all one click away.
- Associate yourself with those you wish to be associated with. Sounds simple and easy to skip over, right? You'd be surprised you are already violating this. Before I go any further in explaining this, I am not saying to leave a friend behind, a gentleman doesn't do that. But what a gentleman does do is always improve his surroundings, people included. We all have that one friend, he's not a bad guy, but he makes mistakes or has a reputation. This friend is known, and people see it immediately. When you are with him, you are associated with everything he does regardless of how you act or look. This is normal, this is society and it is a learned reaction which historically, has proven to be correct therefore, there is no reason for society to change this (remember the Subway guy?). So you can be the guy who influences your friends. Peer pressure is an amazing force. Not everyone will change, and it is those who refuse your help, or worse, influence you who must be turned away.
- Understand your woman represents you in many ways. This is almost exactly like associating yourself with those you wish to be associated with. The exception is this which is key, people know how you treat her in private no matter how private you think you are. Women talk, and they often will use a hyperbole, but people will know. It is unfortunate that most of the men reading this know at least one woman who was abused physically by a man in their life. It is unfortunate that everyone reading this will know of a woman who had experience infidelity. A simple analogy to understand how we as gentlemen must act with our women is this, and it is regardless of the religious context: Eve came from Adam's rib, not from his feet to be subservient and walked upon, and not from his skull to be above and superior. She came from his rib to be equal, and to always be under his arm and protected.
- Be honest, and at times, be blunt. Honesty is an amazing quality, and one I believe is better refined by age and experience. It is hard to admit you are wrong or made a mistake. That's fine, but make that effort, and people will appreciate this much more. Being blunt must be used sparingly. There are times when sugar coating a harsh reality does more damage than good. We don't like to hurt people, emotionally and that includes guys, your friends even if you don't want to admit it. Sometimes, you have to just say the truth as it is. As a gentleman they will appreciate it, and hopefully understand you are merely a messenger.
- Hold your word as sacred and your action as a legacy. This is extremely hard to do in today's society where we are multitasking and constantly on the go. But there is no reason to be. If you tell someone you will do something, ensure it is done, and ensure it is done at the time you state it will be done at. This ties in with honesty as well, if you must tell someone the occurrence of events or relay a message, ensure it is correct. What you say is the initial presentation of your character, first impressions are hard to break. Your actions, however; will define you and determine the height of your character.
- Sculpt your mind, and your body. Again this is not to say you must attend high levels of education or spend hours in the gym. A gentleman however does take care of himself. Mind, body, and soul. Take care of what you put in your body, again the first presentation of yourself will be physical and you can help that by maintaining a natural, clean appearance. You should always strive to go into the public looking your best. The old saying, dress as if you are going to meet your future wife. Your mind is you and aside from always seeking new information as we discussed, you can change what will alter your mind. Remaining in a clear state of mind is preferred, not necessary, but the effects of alcohol and drugs on the brain are well known. I am not telling you to never partake (depending on the laws), but moderation is key. You should seek to expand your experiences as well, and a key part to sculpting your mind. I would say, do at least one really amazing thing you will always remember. Some skydive, some drag race, some serve in the military, some climb mountains, the options are endless. It makes you a better person, gives you life experiences, and makes you more interesting on a personal and intellectual level to converse with.
- Your possessions do not define you, but they show your value. And no, I do not mean your monetary value. You do not need to own a nice car, house, or anything. But, what you do own, should be taken care of. We all know that guy who has a beat up car, and the car is always falling to pieces, and we start to wonder why he does not maintain it a little better. But, we also all know that guy who owns an old car, and never has an issue with it. If you own it, it is your responsibility to take care of it, and even more so, if you are responsible for it, you must do the same. Once again, this sounds like common sense, but can you think of someone who has an apartment that is a mess, maybe with damage that does not get repaired? Of course you do, and that is because of the mentality that "it's not mine, so why bother?" Because it is your responsibility. We also know that guy who rents, and basically has a better bachelors pad than those of us who own. We idealize our elders who were able to maintain their equipment and property for decades for a reason. This all ties in with sculpt your mind and body and with an old Cavalry saying, "maintain your rifle, your horse, your stable, and yourself."
- Stand your ground, but admit your short falls. This goes hand in hand with honesty again. It is hard. We all have our opinions and our emotions and beliefs. The majority of the time, stand fast, hold your ground, stand for what you believe in with a passion. But, if the facts exist, admit you are wrong, consolidate, and come back better.