Friday, March 21, 2014

Gentlemen


I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a few days visiting my parents this week and I never leave their presence without saying a prayer of thanksgiving for having been being blessed with them.  One day I hope my children will say the same about me and their father.

My dear husband and I have three children, two boys and a girl, and, while I find it quite easy teaching my daughter what it means to be a lady, I will admit to struggling on how to teach my sons on being fine Southern gentlemen.  Of course, the basic manners are the same for both genders, but there is something about being a man that I will never fully understand.  I know this teaching is the responsibility of myself and my husband, but he travels a great deal for business and all too often a lesson can not wait until his return.

I often find myself searching out the writings of great men that came before. I  highly recommend George Washington's Rules of Civility  and the book Robert Lee on Leadership: Executive Lessons in Character, Courage, and Vision by H.W. Crocker III.  

"Robert E. Lee was a leader for the ages.  The man heralded by Winston Churchill as 'one of the noblest Americans who ever lived' inspired an out-manned, out-gunned army to achieve greatness on the battlefield.  He was a brilliant strategist and a man of unyielding courage who, in the face of insurmountable odds, nearly changed forever the course of history."

These are but two of many books I've read on the subject, but none of my readings have moved, or taught me, as much as a letter written by another mother to her son.

By 14 years of age, Andrew Jackson was an orphan, his father having died two months shy of his birth and his mother stricken with cholera, while helping with prisoner of war in Charleston, Jackson was  left with no immediate family and only a few years of education.  He lived with a series of relatives, but always felt like an inferior house guest.  Having squandered an inheritance from his grandfather sowing his wild oats, his relatives feared he would become a great embarrassment to his family.  It was a time  in which young Andrew described himself and his situation as "homeless and friendless."
Feeling adrift, his mother's last advice to him kept returning to his mind.  This advice urging him to turn his situation around and to live a proper and successful life.

"Andrew,
     If I should not see you again, I wish you to remember and treasure up some things I have already said to you: in this world you will have to make your own way.  To do that you must have friends.  You can make friends by being honest, and you can keep them by being steadfast.  
     You must keep in mind that friends worth having will, in the long run, expect as much from you as they give to you.  To forget an obligation or be ungrateful for a kindness is a base crime -- not merely a fault or a sin, but an actual crime.  Men guilty of it sooner or later must suffer the penalty.
     In personal conduct be always polite, but never obsequious.  None will respect you more than you respect yourself.  Avoid quarrels as long as you can without yielding to imposition.  But sustain your manhood always.  
     Never bring a suit in law for assault and battery or for defamation.  The law affords no remedy for such outrages that can satisfy the feelings of a true man.  
     Never wound the feelings of others.  Never brook wanton outrage upon your own feelings.  If you ever have to vindicate your feelings or defend your honor, do it calmly.  If angry at first, wait until your wrath cools before you proceed."

With a desire to honor the memory of his mother,  Jackson got back on track and decided to study and later apprentice to become a lawyer.  Jackson would later recall, " I was a raw lad then, but I did my best."

That is all we can hope for with our sons...We set the example, take advantage of the teachable moments, and trust that God will see them through.



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"Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not." ~ Mark Twain