We have two sons. We're also in the process of adopting a baby girl from Ethiopia. While raising the boys and waiting for my girl, I have become incredibly aware of the example I am setting as a man.
I want our sons to grow up to be real gentlemen. Lovely to their wives. Strong in their convictions. Passionate in their endeavors. Dress metro but act old-school. I want them to be thoughtful, polite and brave. Yes, it is my privilege to teach them these tools and principles; but it's also incredibly scary. What if I feel inadequate? What if they only duplicate my mistakes? Right now they are at that age where everything is repeated (and I mean EVERYTHING!) Words. Attitudes. Burps. Behaviors. So I need to step it up! And soon.
I also want our daughter to have really high standards. I don't want her to be annoyingly picky but I want her to demand the best. To wait for the best. To marry the best. (Or I will destroy him.)
And most of all, I want to be a real gentleman to my wife. After 12 years of showing me grace, Catherine is due for 60 years of me being the warrior-lover-rock-star she dreamed of when we met.
It takes intentionality. It takes radical acceptance. And it takes a real man to admit he's been terrible in his manly ways. So here is my to-do list. What I want to live and demonstrate. What I want my sons to learn. What I want my daughter to marry into. The 5 signs of a real gentleman:
1. He speaks value
While society is constantly putting pressure on the women to be "this, that, or the other," a true gentleman speaks louder than the noise. He looks into his partner's eyes and communicates awe, delight and gratitude. It starts with compliments, till the affirmation goes down to the core. He works to plant the seed of unconditional acceptance. The praises for his lady are specific and consistent. He continues until she gets it. Until she truly listens. Until she believes.
2. He accepts his role as number 2
A real gentleman knows that he is a servant. This goes beyond flowers, opening doors and the occasional breakfast in bed (Yes, keep doing those.) His role is to provide, to protect, to empower. Not to dominate or control, but to be like Christ is with the Church. Willing to give his life for the sake of his girl. And it's possible that it's not in the Hollywood sense of dying. But more in the everyday dying to self. (And if you wanna reallydie, you can also serve by changing a few diapers.)
When I really listen, my wife really speaks. I can hear her heart, know her fears and learn her ways. A real gentleman understands that women are incredible communicators. They make our jobs easier by giving us deep insight into their world. It's common to feel overwhelmed by all their heart-information, but that's because we are listening to "fix," not listening to understand. Make her feel heard and known, building her trust. Then in love, get to "fixing" and help her through the problem.
4. He is generous
And he plans "date night." Today, many wives make more money than their husbands. That's not the issue. We celebrate legitimate progress. But when the check comes, the man pays up. He plans the night. He turns the phone off. He saves money so his darling can eat and drink and get her own dessert. Treat her like you're still trying to win her, and you will never lose her.
The cowardly thing to do is to use brute force. To use strength to intimidate and manipulate. This has been an area of weakness for me. Anger and a louder voice made me feel more "powerful." I have discovered that my strength is displayed best when I use it to protect my wife. When I'm bold for her. Fight for her. When I stand up for her cause. My strength and leadership are a gift from God. And they were given to me to steward well for the sake of my sweetheart.
Give this list a chance.
Boys speak. Real gentlemen act.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Happy Sonship. It has been republished here with permission.
Carlos is a preacher who serves the local church and loves to pastor prisoners, young adults and anyone who dares to think differently. He began HappySonship.com, an online magazine that reaches thousands of people daily. He is the author of “Simply Sonship” and “Drop The Stones.” He also works as the director of Catch The Fire Latin America and is Pastor at Catch The Fire in Raleigh, NC. Carlos and his wife Catherine have two sons and are awaiting a baby girl through adoption.