The pursuit of being a gentleman is an interesting topic. What does it really mean to be cultured? Is there such thing as true gentleness in our society today? From the days of knights, manliness and courteousness were one and the same. Does modern day western culture have any idea what true gentlemen are like or do they simply not exist anymore?
The “art of manliness role models” is a book that has been published by the blog. It includes chapters on topics such as how to be a gentleman, what makes up a true gentleman and the importance of being masculine.
“The biggest risks of our period and people are over-sentimentality, over-softness, in fact washiness and mushiness.” Gaining civilized qualities will be of little use unless we maintain the barbaric virtues.” –Washington, D.C.’s Theodore Roosevelt
When young men first start their journey towards manhood, they often begin with the gentlemanly side of things.
They dress in beautiful, traditional apparel, wear a fedora, and place a strong emphasis on etiquette and manners. They think that by doing so, people will see them as mature, responsible guys.
Take, for example, this well-intentioned knucklehead…
Others, on the other hand, wince and snicker at these would-be gentlemen, and they become material for online “m’lady” jokes.
Why do these well-intentioned but inept gentlemen provoke such a reaction?
The finest response to that question comes from none other than the Duke himself.
In one of my favorite John Wayne films, McLintock!, he says something amazing:
“Before you can be a gentleman, you must first be a man.”
Manliness is a prerequisite for gentlemanliness. It’s a softening, a reclaiming of masculinity’s essential qualities: strength, bravery, mastery, and honor. As scholar Harvey Mansfield put it, a gentleman is a masculine man with polish.
As a result, a gentleman’s respect is based on restraint.
A gentleman possesses the strength, dexterity, confidence, and even desire to run roughshod over your desires, push you aside, and manipulate you… However, he has intentionally opted to limit himself in order to pursue a more moral path. He’s a coiled spring, and his self-control exemplifies one of manhood’s ageless characteristics: willpower.
“The greatest compliment that one can offer a guy is that he is capable of inflicting damage but chooses not to,” says anthropologist Paul Friedrich.
Gents of the “m’lady” persuasion, on the other hand, have it reversed. Before becoming a man, they endeavor to be gentlemanly. The delicate qualities shapelessly droop and sag without the framework of the hard, tactical virtues of manliness behind them, unable to elicit the same level of respect.
This is because the mild qualities need little to no restriction or willpower in such guys. It is not an effort of self-mastery for a fundamentally mild-mannered guy to display mildness; rather, it is an act of taking the route of least resistance. Francois de La Rochefoucauld, a 17th-century writer and philosopher, stated it thus way:
“No one deserves recognition for goodness until he is strong enough to be terrible, since any other virtue is typically just inertia or a lack of willpower.”
Dr. Carlin Barton writes in Roman Honor that a man who was forced to live in poverty was not recognized for his frugality, and the “impotent man earned no credit for continence.” Rather, it was when self-control was least anticipated that it was most lauded.” When Cicero remarked, “To the degree that moderation is more uncommon among rulers, to that degree it is more to be admired,” he was expressing this viewpoint.
To put it another way, it’s most remarkable for a guy to display qualities that he’ll have to work hard to accomplish and will be put to the test if he fails to do so.
We believe it’s wonderful and honorable if an uncomfortable guy who goes about his life quietly and secretly remains devoted to his wife for 50 years. However, if a prime minister, for example, who will face several temptations to depart, demonstrates the same dedication, we are blown away. The man’s kindness in the first scenario may be due to a lack of opportunity rather than purposeful restriction. In the latter situation, there is unmistakable evidence of an outpouring of energy and determination.
Barton emphasizes this point by having the reader envision a person who is attempting to give up junk food and chooses to put their resolve to the test by walking by a vending machine without buying anything. If this guy feels compelled to acquire a candy bar but does not act on it because he lacks the necessary funds, this will not be considered an expression of his will, and the man will not feel powerful. He will depart “not with a feeling of greater vigor, but with humiliation and a sense of inadequacy” if he does not purchase a candy bar merely because he does not know how to work the machine. The guy must “approach the machine with both the essential change and complete understanding of how to run the machine” to increase his willpower. He must “have both the desire and the capacity to transgress” in order to win credit in his own eyes and in the eyes of others.
The individual who has the ability to properly exploit his baser and primordial desires but chooses not to doing so earns our respect and reverence.
There’s nothing wrong with adopting gentlemanly habits – in fact, we’re strong proponents of it! In many respects, knowing how to tie a bow tie and watch your p’s and q’s is a more practical and accessible place to begin improving yourself than acquiring power, bravery, or mastery.
Restraint, however, is the true force of good manners and decorum. You have the talent, the raw thumos, and the will to advance your own interests to their fullest degree. However, you make the conscious decision to channel that energy in order to behave civilly, to do good, and to respect the rights of others. You could bulldoze and manipulate your way to the top by bulldozing and manipulating your way through each day, but you don’t.
Gentlemanliness frequently reads as mealy — the gilding of one’s underlying shyness — in the absence of this force, of this show of masculine resolve. A lion who enables someone to touch him earns respect; a house cat dressed as a lion draws only laughter. “I have frequently laughed at the weaklings who felt themselves excellent because they had no claws,” Nietzsche said.
Gentlemanliness without manliness isn’t empowering for the person who has it, since it deprives him of both his own self-respect and the respect of others who grasp the stakes of the conflict.
However, I disagree with the Duke on one point: manliness does not have to take precedence over gentlemanliness. It’s quite feasible to work on both at the same time: opening doors for women and expanding your mind to male philosophy, practicing table manners and krav maga, training weights, and helping the poor.
Be a gentleman at all times.
He’s also a scholar.
And a monster.
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