- Ralph Bergengren
There is a beautiful legend that Sir Walter Raleigh, a 16th Century English nobleman once laid his cloak on a mud puddle for the Queen of England so she would not get mud all over her shoes. This dramatic display of respect and chivalry is not merely a caprice of romantic manner; it is an apt representation of some of the chief external attributes of a true gentleman. It is also an expression of a type of eternal truth that manners are a necessary visible manifestation by which men exhibit their individual distinctive features of mind and heart; and if not used artificially to conceal the true character, they form a transparent medium through which it is shown forth.
It is strange but true that in the heart of many men is a wistful desire to be thought a Perfect Gentleman. This desire as good as it may be, is not fulfilled by dressing up nicely in cute and expensive suits and carrying an air of “James Bond – The Stone Cold Gentleman”, or gaining intellectual knowledge of how to be “Mr Goody-Goody”. The fulfillment of this desire comes from change or transformation of the man from within, it may not make him to be so debonair, but it can assuredly make him an embodiment of strong character. Yet, it will only remain a wistful desire to any man until there is a personal decision from the heart. Every other step is built upon that personal decision. It is like a jewel within the reach of every gentleman who has the will to possess it.
In the daily life of every man small acts of kindness, selfless service, and courage are constantly demanded of him – in the administration of his duties at home or in public places, in taking decisions which, though known to be right, may probably prove unpopular, and in the acceptance of responsibility – especially when things go wrong. However the realities of life also exposes the fact that every time a man turns a deaf ear to an action or behaviour that he knows to be wrong, such as a minor breach of self control, or self discipline, he is in actual fact showing a lack of moral courage. The danger is that if he continues in such minor breaches unchecked, they will eventually affect the roots of his personal integrity, and put his whole character at stake. Therefore, courage is a foundational virtue for the man who aspires to greatness. It is the spirit which inspires a man to risk his life for what he believes to be right.
Great gentlemen of repute have often shown their strength of character in their poise and composure, in their disposition and passions, and in their higher perspectives of life – they often see the bigger picture, and they are able to handle much power when it is in their possession, with much exercised restraint and humility. They are quick to learn that one of the greatest difficulties that besets a man is to distinguish between moral courage that gives a resolution, especially in times of difficulty, and unyielding stubbornness in holding to a course of action when it would be more courageous to admit error. Only the gentleman himself can make the distinction; and to make it correctly demands complete honesty to himself. Such complete honesty opens up the heart to receive instructions and guidance, and has the potential to propel the man to great heights of human character that he could never imagine. It sets him on the threshold of perfection.
Perfection, as noted by Mary Chandler in her book on Character, “is the object at which every man should patiently and steadfastly aim for, and the loftiness of the mark, even though it seems unattainable will shed an ennobling influence on those who make the effort. Many men aim at nothing higher than to be as good as, or to be better than, their neighbors; and many times are even contented when they think they have reached the low mark at which they aimed. In all our aims, the absolute should be our only mark.”
Again, Mary Chandler points out that, “Man was created in the image and likeness of God; and he becomes truly a man only so far as through the grace of God his whole being voluntarily assumes that resemblance to the All-perfect for which he was designed…….Then only he begins to form himself into the symmetrical figure of a man; and to become perfect after the manner in which the Heavenly Father is perfect.” It is on this basis that I believe that true gentlemen will always seek to become more matured and perfected after the manner of Jesus Christ – the epitome of a Perfect Gentleman.
This sort of men will seek to model a life that reflects a moral lifestyle and a proper appearance at all times. Their convictions and attitudes will stem from a pure conscience and they will fulfill their duties always with excellence. By establishing proper priorities, they will be found to always maintain regulations and guidelines in all spheres of their life. These gentlemen will reveal a knack for healthy relationships, and by initiating forgiveness and atonement always seek restitution and peace with fellow men. They will care for women and children and treat them with great tenderness and respect. These are the perfect gentlemen; and the same Spirit which enables them will constantly remind us, in Mary Chandler’s words that, “Character is built up for eternity; and so to build up Character is the whole end for which the things of time were created.”
Author: Uche Aneke