It seems that the modern world has lost the use of the word gentleman and what it is supposed to mean. When you think of a gentleman, what do you picture in your mind? Do you picture some nice young man holding open a door for the elderly? Or does your mind’s eye take you further back to a time when being a gentleman meant more than that? How far back do you go before you picture a gentleman?
One way to look at what a gentleman should be is by looking at the Boy Scouts, or at least the ideal, by examining the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
The Scout Oath
On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my Country and to obey the Scout Law: To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
The Scout Law
A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
When I was in Boy Scouts, these things were explained to me, but not to any extent or in any real detail. Since that time, I have come to understand a little more what these things meant, so I will try to break it down a little more.
On my honor… A man’s word used to mean a lot more than it does now. A man’s word was binding. Unlike today where you have to have something in writing for it to even exist. Today, a man’s word does not mean anything. You can promise all you want, but unless it’s set in stone, then it doesn’t matter.
…I will do my best… This is pretty self-explanatory. Your best means your all. If you could have done better, then you did not do your best.
…To do my duty to God… The first allegiance that any man owes to anyone or anything is to God. He should love God above all, give all reverence to God, all glory to God.
…And my country… We live in a great country. We have many freedoms that other countries don’t have. Perhaps it’s time to stop abusing those freedoms and work to build up our nation instead of tear it down with our petty personal opinions. God bless America!
…And to obey the Scout Law… I’ll go into this in a little bit.
…To help other people at all times… I know I have trouble with this one. Helping others goes beyond occasionally doing a little service for someone you might or might not know. It means going out of your way to be helpful in whatever way you can. It also can’t be just a once-in-a-while thing. It has to be all the time (ouch).
…To keep myself physically strong… Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. I know I am guilty of not taking care of myself the way I should. Keeping yourself physically strong does not necessarily mean you have to lift weights or anything like that, but it does mean you need to work at keeping yourself healthy and ready for any physical challenge that might present itself.
…Mentally awake… My parents always tell me that if I don’t use it, I’ll lose it when it comes to mental skills such as writing or math. This is way too true for comfort. If you don’t continue to keep learning, either by going to school or at least reading a good book that you can learn something from, then your mind loses its grip on reality, and you cease to function mentally. Mental development is a lifelong process.
…And morally straight… This is a huge part of being a gentleman, and probably the hardest. Your soul needs to stay clean. For your soul to stay clean, you need to keep it away from all the bad things. The Seven Deadly Sins are the starting point for figuring out how to do this. Most anything can be dangerous for your soul in excess. Some things are just plain bad for you. Avoid those things and you’re on the right track, but just in starting. You need to follow it up with a good, virtuous life.
Now let’s look at the Scout Law. There are twelve points to the Law, each one a virtue for daily living. A Scout is…
…Trustworthy… Can people trust you? Do you have that reputation for being honest? Honesty and integrity don’t quite get the respect and usage that they should. You can get cheated in just about any situation you can think of today. However, when you develop a reputation for dishonesty, if you are untrustworthy, people tend to figure this out, and then you don’t get the business you might have gotten if you were honest. You can’t get a job if people can’t trust you. You can’t even keep friends if you can’t be trusted.
…Loyal… Loyalty has gone down the social drain in the world today. No longer does someone remain loyal to something they believe in, especially if it gets tough. There are exceptions to that, however: Martyrs die for what they believe in. They are a good example for us in our daily lives. We need to start showing more loyalty to God, to our country, our families, and our friends.
…Helpful… See …To help other people at all times…
…Friendly… A gentleman does not show hostility to anyone, even if they really don’t like that person. We all need to be a little friendlier to those we come into contact with, in almost any situation.
…Courteous… Another way to look at this is Don’t be rude. Hold the door open for someone. Give them your seat on the bus if they need it more than you, or even if they don’t. Use those nice magic words you were taught as a toddler.
…Kind… The Boy Scout Handbook says it pretty well: “A Scout knows there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. Without good reason, he does not harm or kill any living thing. Kindness is a sign of true strength. To be kind you must look beyond yourself and try to understand the needs of others.”
…Obedient… The Fourth Commandment is to honor your father and mother. This means to obey them in all that is not sinful. This commandment has kind of an umbrella coverage to include obedience to all lawful authority and all those people that are higher “ranking” than you (such as a manager, boss, teacher, priest, etc), unless they try to tell you to do something that goes against God’s teaching, in which case you are exempt from obedience.
…Cheerful… I think it was McDonald’s that had the “Put a smile on your face” slogan. It works for here, too. Basically, don’t go through life with a constant frown. It puts you down and everybody around you. Enjoy life, because it’s the only one you get on this earth.
…Thrifty… Economics is the study of how to efficiently use our limited resources to best fill our unlimited needs and wants. Being thrifty just means properly using what you got in the best and most efficient way to satisfy your needs and wants, whether it is money, time, or other resources.
…Brave… Bravery can be pretty hard to categorize sometimes. It can go two ways: Courage and Stupidity. Getting hurt or killed to just show how “brave” you are is stupidity. Standing up for what you believe to be right and defending those weaker than you is courage. Bravery even breaks down to a personal level, when you put aside your pride and admit your mistakes or tell the truth, even when it’s not beneficial for you.
…Clean… Clean does not just mean taking a shower every Saturday night, even if you don’t need it. Clean includes your thoughts, words, and actions. It means you avoid those four-letter words and those dirty thoughts. It means practicing chastity and modesty. It means purity.
…And Reverent… Maybe this one should have been at the top of the list. We should always be reverent towards God. We should always stay loyal to our beliefs. We should never do anything that compromises that reverence that we need to show God. Never.
So there it is, the Scout Oath and Scout Law and how they can relate to being a gentleman. I truly believe that if these values expressed in the Oath and Law were properly taught to all children, then we would be well on our way to making a better world.
He lives with his lovely wife and eleven kids in northern Colorado.