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gentlemen needed

Last week columnist Peggy Noonan suggested we need to resurrect a character from our past. She wrote that our culture, and especially women, need The Gentleman back. “All the stories we’ve read about sexual predators: the piggishness, grabbiness, manipulation and power games—have a common thread. The men involved were not gentlemen. They acted as if they’d never heard of the concept.”
During the past 40 years the movement for full equality threw The Gentleman under the bus. This was an unforced error. Two generations have now been steeped in an evolutionary worldview that tells the individual to exploit their genetic endowments and career achievements to grab for pleasure.

Gentlemen, and ladies too, don’t live for self-aggrandizement.
The Gentleman arose out of a Christian culture that preached (but often failed to practice) that every person is a child of God, every one of us reflects the divine.

Ms Noonan advocates rescuing the old gentleman style. A person of the cultural left might identify it a patriarchal system. But the #MeToo movement illustrates that women are at particular risk in our world; they need friends and allies to stand with them. That’s what gentlemen do. All over the internet there are definitions of what a gentleman is and how to be one. Apparently a lot of people are looking for this information.

The Gentleman is good to women because he has his own dignity and recognizes their’s. He looks for opportunities to show women respect and herald their accomplishments. He is not pushy, manipulative, belittling. He stands with them, not because they are weak but because they are equals. The Gentleman does not grab at women, he exalts them.

The 19th-century theologian John Henry Newman explained
The Gentleman avoids inflicting pain, even when that avoidance might cause him pain. He tries to remove obstacles “which hinder the free and unembarrassed action of those about him.” He is “tender toward the bashful, gentle toward the distant, and merciful toward the absurd. He is never mean or little in his disputes. And he never takes unfair advantage.”

David Gandy, a fashion model, wrote that his work taught him “being a gentleman is about how you behave and who you are.” A gentleman “holds chivalry and politeness in great regard. He holds the door for people; he gives up his seat; he takes off his coat to a lady on a cold evening.”

Perhaps the cleanest definition of
The Gentleman is in the movie Blast from the Past. “A gentleman or a lady is someone who always tries to make sure the people around him, or her, are as comfortable as possible.”

The website
Gentleman’s Journal lists eighteen traits that make The Gentleman, including:
  • Never speak behind another’s back.
  • Always RSVP (“because if a person invites you to join them, the least you can do is respond promptly”).
  • Understand the difference between confidence and arrogance.
  • Have clothes that fit and always be well presented.
  • Be on time (“there’s nothing ruder than showing up late, no one cares about your excuse”).
  • Treat service staff with respect.
  • Lose well (“recognize the achievement of your opponent”).
  • Write thank you letters.

Yes, these are old-fashioned. But
The Gentleman still practices them even though the world has changed. Ms Noonan concluded her column with this. “A man once told me it’s hard to be a gentleman when fewer of the women around you seem interested in being ladies. Men, that’s when you should step up your gentleman game. We are all here to teach and inspire.”

Often I conclude my prayers with, “Lord, make me a blessing to every person I meet.” ~

Dan Nygaard