It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.
-Roy E. Disney-
So, just how do you become Gentleman?
You could just order a manual on “How to Gentleman”, there are plenty out there, or I could help save you a couple of bucks by posting up a list of rules to follow, just like the ones found all over the Internet. Both options would be a disservice for any future Man of Virtue. A list of specific rules and actions taken, without understanding “why” you’re even doing them will simply create yet another social drone that follows rules blindly. The only thing worse in life than a blind follower is a blind rebel. To that last group, understand that you have to learn the rules like experts before you can break them like an artists.
Some rules of etiquette might seem strange or even illogical by today’s standards, mostly because we view them out of their original context. That is why most acts of Gallantry are misinterpreted by those who don’t understand the “why” or why some people just look awkward when they try to display manners. Here’s a bit of information for all of you that think manners will make you less of a man. Manners, in most parts of the world, were established by the Warrior Class as a way to promote social order in chaotic times. Yes, the original “Miss Manners” were the men who killed other men for a living; the knights, the samurai, the professional soldiers. Kind of gives the phrase “a lesson in manners” an entirely new perspective. So, as society’s need for social order changes and evolves, so should manners. The way the world is today, being a Gentleman is the ultimate act of pertinent social rebellion.
The general elements of etiquette are simply a manifestation of proper values and personal virtues. Interestingly enough, proper values that you would think are cultural constructs, individual to each society, are repeated in by most Gentlemen-Warriors Classes all across the world. For example when we compare the Chivalry Code in Europe, the Samurai’s Bushido in Japan, the Junzi’s ideal of the “perfect man" in China, the Furusiyya discipline followed by El Faris of Arabia, and other similar Warrior Classes; the core elements are almost identical and actually need very little updating as they apply to any time or place. From those examples mentioned, and other similar codes of conduct, we understand how there are eight virtues or values any Gentleman must possess; four basic virtues that create the foundations of a proper man (Humility, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance) and four values that he must apply to his life (Faith, Defense, Loyalty, and Generosity). Since each one of these topics could take up a book by themselves, I will try to keep them as simple and direct as possible limiting the topic of virtues into only one article.
- Humility is about being modest, realizing that the spotlight should be on the actions and not on the person. You are part of a greater group and in a way you are dependent of that group even more than they are dependent on you. Everyone and everything is connected in one way or another. Abandon your ego, your sense of self, and focus on your character. This is rather difficult when people are constantly searching to become the next 15 second Viral Superstar and a culture of protagonism has prompted the most horrible disasters of last decades… Reality TV.
- Justice, at its core, is about searching for Righteousness and Equity. It is about achieving a harmonious society, where everyone has the opportunities to succeed without any unfair advantages, while looking to help as many people as possible. Equity, not equality, is the key word here. It is about balancing the scales and administering rightness onto wrongness. Justice is about finding solutions and not about finding faults.
- Fortitude, also known as Cojones or Testicular Strength, is about being able to stand firm and determined. Fortitude speaks about dedication to one’s ideals, which give us the strength to overcome fear and to remain steadfast. It teaches us that it’s better to die standing than to live on your knees. The biggest power that fortitude has is its inspirational. Every time you want to give up, look around you. You will see those watching you, learning from your example, being inspired by your strength. Sometimes standing up is all you have to do to change the world. Just remember, there is a thin line between determination and being a spoiled brat trying to get his way.
- Temperance can be best explained by that famous fortune cookies wisdom, “He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still”. It’s all out having enough self-restraint to avoid falling into temptations, impulses, and thoughtless reactions. Always remember that your greatest enemy is within yourselves. It is easy to believe you should get whatever you want because you can. At that point you have to ask yourself a simple question: Just because you can, should you?
- Faith (Humility+Temperance) understands there is a higher truth or ideal that you must aspire to, about believing in something greater than yourself. It’s not about religion or lack of, or blindly following someone else’s rules, but about determining what is truly important for you. What are you willing to live for, fight for, or die for? That is your Faith; and only when you understand it can you draw strength from it. It will keep your ego in check by accepting that there are greater ideals than yourself. This will provide courage when you must stand firm, strength for when you must fight, and hope when nothing else is left.
- Defense (Justice+Fortitude), after striping it away of all the specifics and decoration, is simply your interest to protect others from attacks and inequality, and being able to offer them a safe haven. It is your duty to protect and defend those that are not strong enough to defend themselves or those attacked by forces greater than what they could handle alone. In a society of looking the other way, people refusing to accept accountability, and few people wanting to getting involved, it is high time we stepped up to the plate. Only by providing someone your support can the weaker be treated as equal and true equity can be achieved.
- Loyalty (Humility+Fortitude) refers to an oath of fidelity, a promise to serve and be by somebody’s side. If Faith is the trust you have on an ideal, Loyalty is actions you do to prove how trustworthy you are. It has to be a willing, practical, and thorough devotion and wholehearted commitment to someone or something. Loyalty is actively engaged upon, and not passively expressed merely as a strong feeling about something. Your word is your bond, so never take it lightly.
- Generosity (Justice+Temperance) is the habit of giving without expecting anything in return. Some people are blessed by having more than what they need while others are struggling just to get by with the hand fate dealt them. The intention behind generosity is to look out for the common good of everyone, a reflection of your passion to help others. If you expect some reward from your deed negates the entire concept behind generosity. Put more into the world than you takes out, it’s that simple.