Gentlemanliness presupposes manliness. It’s a softening, a harnessing of the core characteristics of masculinity: strength, courage, mastery, and honor. A gentleman, as scholar Harvey Mansfield put it, is a manly man with polish.Share
The respect given a gentleman is thus premised on constraint.
A gentleman has the ability — the power, cleverness, confidence, and even the desire — to ride roughshod over your interests, muscle you aside, and manipulate you…but, he has instead voluntarily chosen to restrain himself to follow a more moral course. He’s a coiled spring, and his self-control showcases one of the timeless markers of manhood: will.
As anthropologist Paul Friedrich puts it: “The highest praise that one can give a man is that he is capable of doing harm but chooses not to.”
Gents of the “m’lady” persuasion, however, get the equation backwards. They try to be a gentleman before becoming a man. Without the structure of the hard, tactical virtues of manliness behind them, the gentle virtues shapelessly droop and sag, and fail to engender the same kind of respect. (Read more.)