...may I have your attention, please.
We often refer to someone we admire or respect as "a classy lady" or "a perfect gentleman". I hear these terms used less frequently nowadays, perhaps because our definition of these terms is so subjective. And maybe we associate the behavior of a true gentleman or lady with old-fashioned values or simpler times.
I still aspire to be a gentleman, and truly appreciate when told I am so by an appreciative lady. And while many young girls look up to Lady Gaga, I personally think there are other examples that are more deserving of that title.
Here is a perspective on the subject offered by John Henry Newman in his book, The Idea of a University (I have altered original from masculine to feminine) :
"Hence it is that it is almost a definition of a lady to say she is one who never inflicts pain. This description is both refined and, as far as it goes, accurate. She is mainly occupied in merely removing the obstacles which hinder the free and unembarrassed action of those about her; and she concurs with their movements rather than takes the initiative herself... The true lady...carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of those with whom she is cast; - all clashing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, of gloom, or resentment; her great concern being to make everyone at their ease and at home.
She has her eyes on all her company; she is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; she can recollect to whom she is speaking; she guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; she is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome.
She makes light of favors while she does them, and seems to be receiving when she is conferring. She never speaks of herself except when compelled, never defends herself by a mere retort, she has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with her, and interprets every thing for the best. She is never mean or little in her disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which she dare not say out.
From a long-sighted prudence, she observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves toward our enemy as if she were one day to be our friend. She has too much good sense to be affronted at insults, she is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice. She is patient, forbearing, and resigned on philosophical principles; she submits to pain, because it is inevitable, to bereavement, because it is irreparable, and to death, because it is her destiny.
If she engages in controversy of any kind, her disciplined intellect preserves her from the blundering discourtesy of better, perhaps, but less educated minds; who, like blunt weapons, tear and hack instead of cutting clean...She may be right or wrong in her opinion, but she is too clear-headed to be unjust; she is simple as she is forcible, and as brief as she is decisive. Nowhere shall we find greater candor, consideration, indulgence; she throws herself into the minds of her opponents, she accounts for their mistakes. She knows the weakness of human reason as well as its strength, its province and its limits.
If she be an unbeliever, she will be too profound and large-minded to ridicule religion or to act against it; she is to wise to be a dogmatist or fanatic in her infidelity. She respects piety and devotion; she even supports institutions as venerable, beautiful, of useful, to which she does not assent; she honors the ministers of religion, and it contents her to decline its mysteries without assailing or denouncing them.
She is a friend of religious toleration, and that, not only because her philosophy has taught her to look on all forms of faith with an impartial eye, but also from the gentleness and effeminacy of feeling, which is the attendant of civilization".
May we all, men and women, heed these words and remember to bring civilization into the lives of our peers, children, colleagues, and the disenfranchised. Use today as an opportunity to makeover your personality and your behavior so that it brings out the true Lady or Gentleman in you!