(My thoughts here are for our American culture only. I’m aware my summons is not a universal truth, although I wish it were.)
I fancy myself a gentleman, at least I diligently try. I don’t really know where or how that value was born in me. Yet, it is my motivation to pursue living up to it. Thus I want to be a gentle- man. Our culture has lost what it means to be gentle. Now you may be thinking, the Don Glenn Quixote, like the mythical Don Quixote, is just an old guy pining for what he had “back in the day”. To that I say yes, I am a senior. But is that wrong? What will a man today have lost of himself in order to be gentle? And to be clear, I am not speaking of a return to striated society of peasants and nobles, as in old England.
I’m advocating for an approach to life and it’s machinations with a gentle, reasoned response.
I believe a man should walk with his wife, not a hundred yards in front of her. Hold her hand. Show deference to her. He should open doors for her, be kind and tender to her. He should be courteous, open in his communication, hospitable, accommodating, patient, and generous in every way. He should honor and respect all women as his equal in dignity. A gentleman is, above all, meek and loving. Meekness is not weakness. It is maturity, confidence and self respect under control. There is no room for macho-ism, offensive speech, selfishness, jealousy, or narcissism.
For an illustration, a short anecdote from the life of Confederate General Robert E. Lee will do.
“General Robert E. Lee was on his way to Richmond, and was seated in the extreme end of a railroad car, every seat of which was occupied. At one end of the stations, an aged woman of humble appearance entered the car, carrying a large basket. She walked the length of the isle and not a man offered her a seat. When she was opposite General Lee’s seat, he rose promptly and said, “Madam, take this seat.” Instantly a score of men were on their feet, and a chorus of voices said, “General, have my seat.” “No, gentlemen,” he replied, “if there was no seat for this old lady, there is no seat for me.” (taken from “The Book of Man” complied by William J. Bennett) This was a man of importance, stature and power, who sublimated all that to be gracious to someone else.
In our first term as missionaries, Dianne and I lived in Vienna, Austria for four and half years. We learned early on, when on the underground, bus or tram line, the custom, and expected response, is for younger people to give up their seats to elderly people. Even older men will do the same for a lady, as well as, older men. This is a way of showing respect for age, wisdom, endurance of life. There is a dignity that is underscored by these kinds of actions.
My charge to all males, regardless of age, is to show respect to women and men, beginning with one’s wife. To my way of thinking, we men do not lose one iota of ourselves, nor our dignity, our status nor respect from others. In fact we gain from it. This is also the way the Don Quixote treated the Lady Dulcinea.