What is a true gentleman? I’m sure this is the question you’re all asking, in your mind. (Or, at least, it’s the question we should be asking ourselves.)
A wise woman once told me, quoting from yet another wise woman, that a true gentleman is “a man who never unintentionally gives offense. This means that he is a man who is so aware of how his actions and demeanor affect others that he never makes a social mistake. He puts everyone at his or her ease unless, for some VERY good reason, he needs to give someone a set-down.”
Granted, this is a really hard thing for us to do, practically on par with living without sin. But then, nobody said that Orthodoxy was easy. Those of us who are converts may well have done so because Orthodoxy was the hard way; doing something the hard way often times means doing it the right way. It gives us something to aim for. And, as that overused cliche goes, if we shoot for the moon and miss, we still end up amongst the stars.
The fact of the matter is also that modern culture in general bombards us men with unhealthy messages of what we are supposed to be. We’re supposed to be muscular, coffee-hounds, watching sports. We are taught that brutes are the ones who recieve all the attention, and that sophisticates with a large vocabulary and treat women as fellow citizens are uncool. Feminists critizize these portrayals, and for very good reason; There is pretty much nothing to be found that is useful there. Therefore, we must look at what exactly it means to be a gentleman through a different lens. The fact of the matter is that most pre-modern cultures, Western, Eastern, or even Mesoamerican (yes, you read that right) had ideals of proper gentlemanly behavior and, for lack of a better word, chivalric codes. So: let’s approach the idea of the gentleman from a view that is perhaps a little alien to our eyes. Let’s explore the idea of a proper gentleman from the eyes of a non-Christian culture, just so we can see how universal these ideals are across the broad spectrum of humanity.
Next Post: Gentlemanly attributes from the Shahnameh.