A question occasionally arises about the Southern gentleman and geography:
- Can someone be a Southern gentleman when they are not in or from The South?
- Is it appropriate for a non-Southerner to use and display the Confederate flag and other symbols of The South?
The answer to these and similar questions is a resounding “Yes”. The state of being a Southern gentleman is no longer restricted to those living below the Mason-Dixon Line, and perhaps it never was. A Southern gentleman who accepts a job transfer to Maine or New York or to Scotland or Italy is no less a Southern gentleman after his move than before. A man living in Massachusetts with solid Northern roots and not a single drop of Southern ancestral blood can decide to take on the mantle of the Southern gentleman and become a far greater Southern gentleman than a direct descendent of Robert E. Lee living deep in the heart of Dixie.
Being a Southern gentleman is a state of being. It is a lifestyle based on the ancient code of chivalry. It is a mindset of putting others first and having a truly humble spirit. It is a respect for others – and for oneself. It is respecting the dignity of all men, no matter what their station in life may be. It is a deep and abiding reverence and respect for women, coupled with the manners and etiquette that outwardly demonstrate that reverence. It is the understanding that we are not self-made men, but we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. It is a reverence for the God who created us, and who is the source of all of our many blessings.
Southern gentlemen can be found at every level of society from the janitor who cleans the toilets with the same pride in his workmanship as the finest craftsman, to the men occupying the highest positions of leadership in the land. It is not about money or occupation or social standing. It is about being a Southern gentleman.
Outwardly, the Southern gentleman can be identified as the man who always dresses well – not to impress, but out of respect for the dignity of those around him. He can be identified as the man who is at ease in a hut or in a palace – and always makes those around him feel at ease when they are near him. He has taken the time to learn the rules of social etiquette and practices them at all times, yet never points out the errors made by others. He understands the needs of women and accommodates those needs. The Bible speaks of women as “the weaker vessel”; the Southern gentleman discretely protects women and is prepared to actively defend them if no other options are available. He is quiet and soft-spoken. The Southern gentleman is seldom heard in a crowd unless he is speaking to you since his voice is kept soft and low so as to not call attention to himself; even when angry, his voice, like his demeanor, is kept under control. He never calls attention to his own success but points to the success of others. His leadership style is one of firmness and confidence such that others naturally look to him when leadership is needed.
Understand that no one possess all of these traits. Most of us are fortunate if we can successfully cultivate even a few of them. What sets a man apart as a Southern gentleman is that he understands the goals, knows that they are important, and strives with every fiber of his being to be a Southern gentleman. When he fails, he is determined to do better next time and never makes excuses.
Being a Southern gentleman is a journey. It is not a destination.