In an effort to chime in with what my sister is doing on her blog, I am trying to finish what I have been working on for about two and a half months, upon her request. I must say that I approach this “code” from a Christian perspective, as opposed to the secular “Emily Post” type of perspective. I find that it is easier to act like a gentleman than it is to be a gentleman and perhaps I will make that distinction more clear as we go.
First, I have to make a series of reflections to help with where this is supposed to go. I believe that a man’s behavior and attitude reflects the God he serves. Conversely, if one follows God, then his life should reflect Christ’s life, attitude and behavior. In truth, a gentleman should emit the reflection of Christ’s sacrifice. Indeed, Jesus himself commanded the disciples in John 15:12 “As I have loved you, so love one another.” Surely, Christ’s love drove Him to the cross in an ultimate sacrifice. It is my firm belief that until a man experiences Christ’s love in His ultimate sacrifice, he is incapable of being a gentleman.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “You’re a gentleman and a scholar.” People have also told me that I am full of theory, scholarly really. My experiences, or lack thereof, make me feel deeply inadequate to speak on what I’m trying to relate in this dialogue. Always the scholar, I’ve struggled with the action part of being a gentleman.
I think we all know what I mean when I talk about a gentlemanly action or offer. This would be like getting the door or helping someone carry their things. I believe one of the underlying principles of the concept is that it is the gentleman’s responsibility to offer these acts, but it is the lady’s privelege to accept. Responsibility would mean that a man can’t be considered a gentleman if he doesn’t offer to carry out gentlemanly actions. The implications of this can be explained in two ways, (probably both are incredibly confusing) 1) The gentleman is made or broken based on whether or not he offers, but a lady remains a lady no matter how she choses to respond. 2) The extention of an offer makes or breaks a gentleman, but rejection doesn’t break the lady.
These offers must be genuine. Guys, people know when you are insincere about these things. The oddest thing I’ve seen is a guy opening the door to the backseat of a car for a girl so that he can take the front. People see right through that offer. Remember what Paul said in Philipians 2:3 (and about a half dozen other places) “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” Here we come to a hard thing to say.
If one’s sole purpose of gentlemanly behavior is to “get girls”, that person is not a gentleman. Again, a gentleman, like Christ, sacrifices without expecting to be compensated. James 3:13-18 come to mind here, which relates that “where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there,” and “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in meekness of wisdom…the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”
As a gentleman, integrity is your best ally. Don’t destroy it; guard it with your life. It is built slowly over time and destroyed in an instant. Eccles 7:1 teaches us that a good name is precious. Indeed, our reputation reflects the God we serve. Proverbs 6 talks about 7 things that the Lord abhors–1) Pride 2) Lying 3) Shedding innocent blood 4) A heart that plans evil 5) Feet that are swift to sin 6) A false witness and 7) One who sows discord among brothers. It’s interesting that lying is on the list twice. Proverbs 11:3 proclaims that “Integrity will guide you…”
Perhaps the biggest enemy of integrity is what we say with our mouths. As a rule, say little or less. Prov 10:19 says “In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” In verse 29 of the same chapter, Solomon says that the lips of the righteous know what is acceptable. (Prov 11:12; 13:3) “Do you see a man hasty with his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him,” Prov 29:20. James 1:19 says to be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath. James 3 talks about taming the tongue (vs. 2-12)
I think one of the biggest no-nos we can do as men is flatter. There is a fine line between a compliment and flattery and I don’t think I’ve discovered it yet. The hardest thing is to find that balance. Complementing is something we’re encouraged to do (Hebrews 10:24-25), but flattery is a swindler. “A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet” (Prov 29:5). Indeed, “getting treasures by a lying tongue is the fleeting fantasy of those seeking death” Prov 21:6. “…A flattering mouth works ruin.” (Prov 26:28)
Basically what this means is be real, be genuine. Own up to your mistakes instead of being proud of them. We are all human and mess up, but it’s how you deal with the mistakes that reflects your character and others will see that. A gentleman can be wrong but he shouldn’t be proud of it.
You as a gentleman are responsible for the lady’s safety, so always be alert. Again, like I said before, many can “act” like a gentleman, but being a gentleman is a continual practice. Be intentional about it, pay attention to every detail. In terms of safety, the gentleman should always act as a buffer to potentially dangerous circumstances. For example, when escorting a lady on a sidewalk close to the street, always take the side of her that is closest to the street. If by some crazy mishap, she slides on ice or something toward the street, you are in a position to steady her before she is dumped into the street and the oncoming traffic.
All of this talks about the gentleman, but the lady has an important part in the making of a gentleman. Ladies, if the gentleman I describe is the man you want to know, you must also be willing to make some sacrifices. First, don’t comment on or berate a man for not being a gentleman. If he’s really one of this fraternity of gentleman, he already knows when he doesn’t act like one and is probably beating himself up over it. It is my experience that this form of encouragement is not helpful nor constructive. For those caught in that situation, I would just give him another chance or ask him to do the gentlemanly act for you. That at least gets the ball rolling, because he’s most likely unaware of what you need/want. In constrast to berating a lack, encourage each act that is offered by accepting as many as you can. This is where your sacrifice comes in, because I know it goes against the culture of feminine independence and appears to be an admission of need, but it is needed if you want to encourage a consistently gentlemanlike man.
The rewards are vast. Many have no idea what amount of good the encouragement of such acceptance does for a gentleman. Likewise, the opposite is true with rejecting an offer (yes, that seems harsh, but that’s what saying, “I’ve got it” is), even in the name of the aforementioned independence or “not needing a man”. By natural law, you can’t expect offers of this kind to continue if they are constantly rejected. At some point, the man will give up on this ideal. So a good thing to keep in mind, ladies, when disappointed by a lack of gentlemanly behavior in guys you know, is to ask yourself when was the last time you accepted an offer that they freely proposed? If it had been a while, they have already deemed that you will reject their offer so they won’t waste their time with it.
Nevertheless, Gentlemen are a dying breed in a world and culture where the woman has been “liberated”, but it is truly how God planned the male’s role to be. They are to be the protector, provider and servant-leader. Guys, please get on board with this. First, experience God’s sacrificial love and then take up that mantle of protector and leader. Revive this enbattled role and live it out. Don’t be timid. Step up to the plate and live on the edge, unleash the wildness that God designed in you. Don’t just act like a gentleman, BE a gentleman.
Also, a good resource for all you men is John Eldredge’s book entitled Wild at Heart. I should have a copy of it floating around somewhere, if those of you who know me in person want to borrow it for a time.
JA Menter 3
“And whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not to men…for you serve the Lord Christ.” Col 3:23-24