The Essense of the Southern Gentleman
One of the most depressing developments over the past 50 years is the disappearance of the Southern Gentleman from society. The primary goal of SouthGents is to stem that tide and restore our place among the living. There is much to revere about the South, much that is no longer taught today – it’s time for Southerners to seize our birthright and reclaim what is ours. This place will be about what it means to be Southern, what it means to be a gentleman, some ideas on how a gentleman should act, how a gentleman should present himself, and the types of behavior we should expect from ourselves and from each other.
I will endeavor to keep these ramblings brief – and at least mostly on point, and will flesh this out as we go. This is not a blog about Southern history. Far too many people who are wiser that I have already done that.
So, with that preamble out of the way, let’s ask the most pressing question. What IS a Southern Gentleman in the first place? Like a lot of things in life, it’s less of a definition, and more of an “I’ll know it when I see it,” but we’ll give it a shot anyway.
First and foremost, a Southern gentleman must be Southern – period. End of story. How does one become “Southern” one might ask? Well, that’s pretty easy – you either are, or you aren’t. You cannot “become” Southern. It is a birthright, bestowed at birth, and never again. But, it’s not just birth – Two Yankees having a baby in a Southern state do NOT equal a Southern child. I don’t know the specific number of generations that are required but, as stated earlier, I know it when I see it.
Next, having a Southern birthright no more makes one a Gentleman than having a drink of milk makes one a calf. The Southern Gentleman is made of solid timber. It can be a result of upbringing or it can be taught. What it cannot be is ignored – ever.
A Southern Gentleman views things through a very distinctive filter: God, Family, and Soil. Everything else is temporary, everything else can change or be gone in an instant. Those three things last, and are therefore elemental to a Southern Gentleman’s soul. Because of this, a Southern Gentleman pays very close attention to attempts to besmirch any of those three pillars – past, present, or future.
All in all, a Southern Gentleman’s purpose in life can be broken down in one easy statement; “Today, I will strive to be a better man that I was yesterday.”
There are exhaustive lists behind every nook and cranny that portend to impart the wisdom of what it and what is not proper behavior for a Southern Gentleman. I won’t attempt to add to those here, but by all means feel free to research to your hearts content if you need to know more. Here are the two basic pillars of a Southern Gentleman’s mindset along with a few more mindsets that support them:
First and foremost in a Southern Gentleman is an innate sense of what is right and what is wrong. This is non-negotiable. A Southern Gentleman does the right thing, even if it’s not popular, easy, or safe. We strive for a life of Integrity – one that is rooted in eternal truths, not modern day, politically-correct poppy-cock. Integrity means living up to the high standards we set for ourselves, and refusing to make excuses for failure.
The mirror image of Integrity is Honor. You cannot be a man of honor without living a life of Integrity. Integrity is self-driven, Honor is bestowed by others – it is how others see you. One’s Honor must always be safeguarded. Protect yours, defend that of others. Once, besmirching one’s honor was considered such an affront that men would duel to the death over such a breach. While I would frown on restoring that tradition, I would love to see a return to a place where one’s Honor is cultivated, grown, and protected. Everything else is you ever hear about the behavior of Southern Gentleman is a derivative of one of those two concepts.
Chivalry may not be dead, but it is definitely on the endangered species list. To be clear, acting chivalrously towards others is NOT an accusation of weakness, it is a token of appreciation. Chivalry can be broken down in its most basic for as this: If someone is going to be made uncomfortable or inconvenienced, a Southern Gentleman would prefer it to be us.
A Southern Gentleman knows how to be humble. Humility is not a sign of weakness – It is instead a sign of appreciation; appreciation to others who helped him along the way, to a God who granted him the opportunity to be born and raised in this most spectacular setting, and for a family that loved and supported him, always.
The Golden Rule:
It’s basic, right? Treat others as you would wish to be treated. This again, can be construed as a sign of weakness to the untrained eye – in truth, it’s the greatest strength in the world. To master one’s emotions and act as one should, not surrendering the high ground because of someone else’s inability to behave properly is the acme of strength. We all fall short from time to time, me more than most, but we should always strive to remain above the fray – refusing to bow to emotion over logic. There is an old saying in the South that you should never wrestle with a pig a in the mud – you’ll only get yourself dirty, and the pig will enjoy it. That, my friends, is wisdom to live by.
I hope you find this first primer to be useful, and will return from time to time to peruse these ramblings, which I will endeavor to grow over time.
This post first appeared on the SouthGent blog on July 14, 2015.
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SouthGent was born and raised just outside of Atlanta, GA and now resides on a farm in the North Georgia mountains.