Men, this post is for you!
When was the last time you helped someone?
Which man among us wouldn’t help the fallen woman depicted in the image above? Can we say that’s true of most men in other situations? It seems most men (not all), reflect little desire to offer help to others without seeking anything in return. Be honest, does that describe you? Does that description fit men you know?
Many dictionaries define the word, “gentleman” as being a man who is: chivalrous, courteous, and honorable. Let’s look at a definition for each word or trait:
Chivalrous: (of a man or his behavior) courteous and gallant,
especially toward women.
Courteous: polite, respectful, or considerate in manner.
Honorable: worthy of honor.
That was the general understanding of that term (gentleman) not so very long ago; however, how many men (today) are chivalrous, courteous and honorable? Presently, the term, “gentleman” is typically used to describe an older man and has little to do with a man’s innate character. We refer to older men as gentlemen for no better reason than they are no longer young. We have ceased expecting men to hold the qualities listed above. That, in my opinion, is a massive loss to our culture.
To highlight this, consider the many discussions (over the last 20 years or so) about whether men should hold a door open for an approaching woman and consider the many resulting arguments centered on that simple curtesy. What is missed in those frivolous conversations is the truth that gentlemen will hold a door for any approaching person, no matter their gender — it is a courteous and simple act that men used to perform without thought, and an act that women used to happily accept. It’s not a sexist or power move; it stems from a man’s desire to be helpful to those around them. Sadly, we are living in a time of confusion and it seems men are the most confused.
Despite our modern world trying to redefine the norms people follow, men are at their heart problem solvers and often desire to be quietly helpful. This takes nothing away from the incredible contribution women bring to the world because if we look at the genders with open eyes, we will see they balance each in beautiful ways.
Again, not too long ago, boys were to aspire to be a mature gentleman when they reached adulthood (today, not so much). They were expected to be problem solvers, helpful, and yes protectors of those around them. In all those days and centuries of men following those unwritten codes, never once was it taught that men are to do those things as some form of power move over others, that is a modern myth. Imagine this, a man is walking down an icy street, and a woman about ten feet ahead slips and falls. The man rushes to her and helps her up and ensures she isn’t hurt. That man did not do those things as some form of power display, NO, he genuinely wanted to help the fallen woman. In this scenario, the man’s offer of help was natural and had no strings attached; he was following his nature to be helpful and to solve a problem (helpful by running to the woman’s aide and a solving a problem by helping her to her feet and ensuring she was well).
Our present culture, and men in general bury these innate character traits. Men often avoid being helpful, and rarely want to be problem solvers (outside their business and professional lives), even when they are the only person able to offer assistance.
Ask any man who became a Police Officer or a Fireman if they did that to be macho or a tough guy; most will tell you they chose those professions to help others and to do so in a humble and non-descript way (again, this is not to take anything away from the many women who also enter those professions).
The idea here is men have lost their calling to be strong, yet humble, gentleman, who (in general) are concerned about the well-being of those around them (all people around them). To regain or renew the traits we have thrown away, we must start with each individual man, and especially with fathers.
Fathers who have an obsessive concern about how their sons perform in sports often do not worry about the character of their sons (they’d rather see their sons rise high in sports, and hold little concern for developing their child into upright men). Those fathers are helping to create a generation of non-gentlemen. Furthermore, fathers who worry more about their own desires, than about the development and education of their sons, likewise are helping to create a generation of non-gentleman.
No matter your religion or faith, everyone can take lessons from the strong humility Christ showed the world. He did not flinch or pull-back from his plans; He saw them through to completion. Consider this passage:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:1-11 RSVCE]
Christian men, do you try to emulate Christ by counting others as better than yourself and concerning yourself with their needs? For non-Christian men, though you do not follow Christ, can you see the value in this teaching?
Imagine the change the world would see if men took time, every day, to do something kind for at least one person. Perhaps you can offer a caring smile to a frustrated co-worker, or to the over-worked person serving coffee at the shop in the morning. Maybe you can say a quiet prayer for someone you can plainly see requires help in ways you cannot provide. Or, perhaps simpler gestures such as a forgoing the last piece of cake left on the platter so someone else can enjoy it. And, perhaps when coaching or watching your son play a sport, you can emphasize character traits that help them develop into good men.
Obviously, you can create your own ways to develop traits in yourself and in your sons that reflect a true gentleman, and in so doing, perhaps not long from now people will refer to men as gentlemen because of who they are without thought to their age. But, we must take the first step to become better men ourselves. Looking in the mirror with honest eyes is a challenging task, yet it must be done if we desire to become gentlemen.
The true test of the character of a man lies not only in what people see him do, it is what he does and how he behaves when no one is watching.
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