CITYSCOPE® MAGAZINE SOUTHERN GENTLEMAN® – In their own words, these six men share what principles guide them and how their past experiences and influences have defined and shaped them into who they are today.
Leonardo da Vinci once said, “The height of a man’s success is gauged by his self-mastery.” That is as true today as it was 500 years ago. No matter the advances of the modern age, humanity will continue to struggle with its own nature. Neither modern medicine nor advances in technology can improve personal character – that’s the individual challenge of every person born in this world. What makes a man a gentleman – what gives him mastery over himself – is the principles he chooses to follow and the experiences that have shaped them. In their own words, these six men share what principles guide them and how their past experiences and influences have defined and shaped them into who they are today.
BY BRENDA SHAFER
PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICH SMITH
ON LOCATION AT THE HUNTER MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART
My earliest picture of honorable men came from a small Presbyterian church that I grew up in, in Opelika, Alabama. As a child, I observed their integrity, sense of moral responsibility, and consistent faith. As the years passed, while I did not have a faith relationship with God, I remembered these men, and their character was imprinted on my mind. They invested in me, and when I became an adult, I turned to them for counsel and support.
When I came to faith in Jesus Christ, I had a very serious transformation. I went from self-centered living to a life of service. I don’t say that with pride but with a humble spirit – God changed my life and transformed me. I believe that every day I have the opportunity to be a blessing to someone and to love someone genuinely, no matter who they are. That picture I had in my mind of those men back home inspired me to be the man God called me to be. I believe the heart of the gospel is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart … and love your neighbor as yourself.”
I’ve learned many valuable lessons from observing gentlemen in my life. My father’s quiet example of honorable and humble conduct was certainly the most important. He often said, be polite and do a good job. There are other men, colleagues and friends, who have provided and continue to provide valuable lessons in gentlemanly behavior. Among these behaviors has been consistency in their courteous, kind, and generous treatment of others. I have learned the meaning of servant leadership from them. I have seen how their lives are made richer by marrying and staying married to someone who expects gentlemanly behavior and responds with a quick correction for any lapses. Not one thing is more important to them than their family. I’ve learned the value of surrounding myself with the company of gentlemen in order to walk with giants and try to match their stride. I’ve tried to be a good student of the examples set by my father and these men so that I might be worthy of being thought of as a gentleman.
Growing up, we didn’t have many material things. However, my parents believed in traditional values – such as respect your elders, live the Golden Rule, always say yes ma’am and yes sir, hold the door open for others, and many more. We developed a strong work ethic because it was expected, not requested. I was taught that everything in life is earned, not granted. Lastly, I was taught there is nothing more important than faith, family, and friends.
While these basic principles may seem old school, they have served me extremely well in my personal and professional life. Some things never grow old, and these are the things that have made me into the man I am today.
I have been tremendously blessed in my life. Growing up, my maternal grandparents lived with my family, modeling a life of faith. That faith has stayed with me and never failed to guide me in both easy and difficult times. My wife, Leslie, and I have endeavored to prioritize God, family, then work, in that order. It is now such a blessing to see these principles being put into practice in the lives of our daughters and sons-in-law as they raise their families. My prayer is that I can have a positive influence on my grandchildren like my grandfather had on me.
Professionally, it’s an immense privilege to be entrusted with helping people during their time of medical crisis. I’ve always looked at these opportunities as more than just treating physical needs. Treating someone in the manner that you would want to be treated, with kindness and compassion, is often the most memorable part of the healing experience. Living according to the Golden Rule not only in the workplace but in every aspect of my daily life is, to me, the foundation of a fulfilling life.
I was raised in a household where education and service were core values. My parents both came from modest beginnings in the South, but through perseverance and faith, they overcame incredible obstacles to provide a better life for themselves and for me. I am motivated by my family’s core values and a deep appreciation for the love my parents poured into me. That motivation drives me to seek excellence in all things and in all people. As a son, husband, father, and friend, I define being a gentleman by my ability to uplift others.
I believe a gentleman is always learning and always leading. He has a strong curiosity and develops his worldview through a diverse set of experiences and relationships. His integrity is unwavering and his sense of purpose is rooted in something greater than himself. A gentleman is able to listen intently, speak empathetically, and move courageously.
Growing up, I don’t recall my parents providing lectures or lessons on how a gentleman should behave. What I do recall, however, is a consistent modeling of hard work and humility. I was born in Mexico and have moved numerous times. Wherever we called home, I observed my father gaining respect through his dedication to hard work and how he treated others. Consistency in behavior is who you are, and I believe that my actions (as well as words) will speak to my son and model the values that my wife and I would like to instill in him.
I am blessed to be married to a beautiful woman who is very transparent and honest. These traits represent not just the foundation for marriage but also for successful work and business relationships. I have had great leaders show me the importance of trust and respect, and I believe that I must respect others in order to gain their respect. And knowing that I have gained the respect and trust of my family, my team, and co-workers is both humbling and fulfilling, instilling in me a deep responsibility to live up to their expectations. SG