Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? The man or the manners? Today we are going to discuss the seemingly archaic idea of manners and what this has to do with being a man.
Finding the Man in Manners
We often tie masculinity to material things or achievements rather than character:
- Did you see Matt’s new car? He’s the man!
- We won the game because of his touchdown. He’s the man!
- He sold more inventory than anyone else. He’s the man!
- He got the best table with he hottest girls at the night club. He’s the man!
The origin of “the man,” by the way, comes from 1918 and means someone who’s a boss, manager, or in a position of authority. Prior to this, a “man about town” was commonly used in the 1700s to describe a fellow who was seen at the most exclusive events with the most influential people.
Before ”the man” and “man about town” became terms, educator William Horman wrote “manners maketh man” in 1519. For all of the guys who’ve used memes to compare themselves to lions and designated themselves “alpha,” Horman believed good manners distinguished people from animals.
Every good man lives by a code of morality.
Can our actions shape our identities as men? One thing is certain: to know and understand is not enough. One must act! Our reputations and the way others see us is certainly shaped by our actions.
What do you think of when you hear the word “manners”? Maybe opening a door for someone, keeping your elbows off of the table, or not cussing come to mind. And while the definition of “manner” is a “way of doing” and following the gentleman traditions, it’s also a way of being.
A Gentleman Treats Everyone as a Friend
What if we’ve inflated this idea of manners? Maybe it’s simple. Having manners is treating everyone like they are your friend. Giovanni della Casa (1558) described the good man as:
We ought to esteem him alone an agreeable and good-natured man, who, in his daily intercourse with others, behaves in such a manner as friends usually behave to each other.”
Isn’t it time we recognize men for their character? What happened to acknowledging others for honor, courage, and virtue?
This past weekend I spoke at a men’s retreat up in Big Bear, CA. A few men spoke up about how they felt they didn’t measure up as men. In that instant, I received a revelation. I asked the other men in the room to share what manly qualities they saw within these brave men. After they shared these qualities, I had them look into their eyes and say, “You’re a man.” It was powerful and life changing.
What if we tied masculinity to character? We should shout it as loudly and proudly as we state, “You’re the man!”
- Did you hear how David volunteered his time at a homeless shelter last weekend. He’s the man!
- Ryan remained calm and kept the peace even though he’s being publicly criticized. He’s the man!
- Did you see the level of respect in how Chris treated her? He’s the man!
- Colin’ s doing everything he can to become a better man. He’s the man!
While both men and women should live and recognize manners, it’s the man in the mirror who must take the initiative first.
Your manners reflect your character. Long before William Horman said, “Manners maketh man,” King Solomon (1010-931 BC) wrote, “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.”