Gentleman. Such a funny word. The stereotype of “men” is to be tough, rugged, driven—all very masculine words. And yet the word Gentleman has the word “gentle” in it. If you were looking to define the meaning of being a gentleman, what would you include?
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Before I give you my answer, let me share a perspective on life.
Much of what we do is driven by fear of failure.
The pursuit of material wealth distracts us from activities and people that provide more lasting pleasure and satisfaction.
There are no more powerful desires than the pursuit of happiness and the struggle for self-respect.
If means can be found that move people in these directions: better jobs, education, the chance to improve one’s life, and a sense of fairness and opportunity, the seductive and short-lived bliss provided by drugs will lose its appeal.
Parents have a limited ability to shape children’s behavior, except for the worse.
Anxiety is contagious. Children sense it in their parents and are affected by it.
Given love and support, most children grow into happy, productive adults independent of whatever theory of parenting they were raised with.
Set reasonable limits on children’s behavior. Provoke less confrontation and resentment.
When Russell Baker first submitted the memoir of his youth, Growing Up, it was rejected by a publisher as uninteresting. He then told his wife, “I am going upstairs to invent the story of my life.”
The result was a best seller – and no less true than the original version.
Of all the forms of courage, the ability to laugh is the most profoundly therapeutic.
Does it mean that to be a “man” is not enough?
To me, that is only one-half of the puzzle. To be a gentleman, you must also be gentle.
Being male does not guarantee a boy will grow up to be a gentleman and the current self-absorbed culture is not likely to model or promote the qualities of a gentleman.
It is a process for a boy to become a man and develop into a gentleman. Parents invest a great deal of time and resources to develop their son’s academic, athletic, or artistic talent, with little or no thought as to what is required for him to mature into a gentleman.
A gentleman understands that his appearance, behavior, and way of communicating provide others with valuable insight into his character. He knows that he did not acquire his true strength at the gym.
Rather, he demonstrates true strength through his strong character and integrity.
To us, the ten best things a gentleman must have are as follows:
A positive attitude
Build and maintain a positive mental attitude. Do things to let it be seen and felt by others.
It’s often easier to give into cynicism, but those who choose to be positive set themselves up for success and have better reputations.
The proper timing of your words and acts will give you a big advantage over people who are impatient.
Much of real happiness is a matter of being aware of what you’re doing while you’re doing it — and enraged people aren’t typically conscious of their actions.
Being a gentleman … a consistent smile
The greatest asset a gentleman can show is a ‘million-dollar smile.’ This allows people to lower their guards during conversations with you.
Show you care
Gentlemen don’t pretend to be likable; they are likable because they show care for others.
No matter where you go, what you do, or what mistakes you have made, a gentleman will always be there to care for you.
Even if you go against his beliefs, or hurt the people he holds dear, he will still give you the respect and kindness you are due.
A gentleman will always drop what he is doing, will sacrifice his time and effort and will do what necessary every time someone requires his service is.
To a gentleman, there is no higher calling than service to others, than bringing joy, kindness, and prosperity to the world.
A gentleman will always act with these things in mind and walk through fire before he ever lets any of this fall.
No matter where you are if you are hurt, the gentleman will always care.
Without self-awareness, you are nothing more than an unstoppable wrecking ball. Some people, many people see that as an admirable trait, the ability to push forward by any means necessary.
This is the “toughness” that is often associated with being a man.
However, without self-awareness, that same wrecking ball mentality can also end up being quite destructive—to you and those around you. Sometimes pushing through isn’t what needs to be done.
Sometimes another goal or achievement won’t solve the issue. Self-awareness is the ability to pause that relentless desire to move forward and contemplate your present role in the situation.
The ability to play
All are growing up; my mother would drag me to musical events, camps, etc. Whenever I would say, “Mom, I don’t want to,” her reply would be, “Cole, when you get older, and a girl wants to go out dancing, you are going to thank me.”
I always thought she was referring to the physical act of dancing—and in many ways, she was.
But what she meant was that women love to play.
Playing is a very feminine act. It’s the reason why the stereotype has become for all those tough business men in suits to not leap out onto the dance floor.
Playing is vulnerable, and that is often thought of (by men) as revealing a weakness.
The truth is, in the eyes of a woman, it’s the complete opposite.
The ability to play is gentle and attractive.
Being a gentleman … humility
Men that blame are not men. They are boys who have not yet understood the power of accountability.
A gentleman, then, in every moment is willing to reflect and see what it is he has brought to the table to contribute to the current situation.
He is not afraid to say, “I made a mistake. I was wrong.”
Many men fear to say those words because, again, they see it as revealing a vulnerability. To be wrong is to be weak—when really, it is entirely the opposite.
A woman wants to feel understood and heard and to move forward gracefully, that means taking accountability and allowing for that to happen.
Humility too is the constant act of knowing who you are without needing to be validated for it. Your self-confidence comes from a deep sense of self-understanding and acceptance, not from how much you have in the material sense.
As Ron Gibori would tell me: “Nobody needs to know but you.”
A gentleman does not care for the attention of the world and will give praise where it is due.
He doesn’t concern himself with praise or rests on his laurels, for he knows that there is always more to learn.
All the good deed the gentleman does will go unnoticed because he knows that actions speak louder than words… always.
He is humble, modest in whatever he does, and confident enough to display this modesty wherever he goes. How does that strike you?
Are you humble enough? Good question, huh?
When I was 18 years old, I told my parents they couldn’t tell me what to do anymore because I was an “adult” now. I was a “man.”
My father said, “Mike, you might be a legal adult, but you won’t know what a man being is like until you have real responsibilities.”
He was right.
If a man or manhood comes with responsibility, then a gentleman is someone who can handle life’s responsibilities gracefully. He can manage his challenges while still putting others before himself.
He can be stressed and have the self-awareness not to take it out on other people. He can earn for himself and at the same time look for ways to help others who may not be there yet.
A gentleman doesn’t just throw money at problems. He looks for ways to teach, empower, and nurture, so that others can grow and mature too.
And finally, a gentleman knows how to forgive.
Note: that does not mean he should forget, or continue to allow for the same mistakes to happen over and over again.
Forgiveness has more to do with the ability to let go of old feelings within himself—for his sake, and the sake of the other person.
The ability to forgive is what allows for more positive energy to flow.
And positive energy is what women are most attracted to.
Live with integrity
A gentleman is just as honest, direct and kind when he is around people as when he is alone.
What he does behind the scenes is not any less important or valuable than what he does when he shines in the limelight, and it is not any different.
What you see is what you get; gentleman does not need to pretend to be someone else.
He is confident enough in himself and in who he is that he shines wherever he goes, even if he is not always mature.
The bottom line
These are things that we already know, of course. They are not rocket science and shouldn’t be.
This list of little things simply reminds us of what we have forgotten. Then it is up to us to put these lessons (or reminders) into daily use through persistence and practice.
Remember … your experience and learning trumps all!
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he writes about topics to help improve the performance of small business. Find him on G+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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More reading on learning from Digital Spark Marketing’s Library:
10 Best Traits of Being a Gentleman