A Gentleman Believes ... Why You Should Write a Personal Credo
by Teah Strandjord
Gentlemanliness requires a subscription. A pledge. A membership. It’s not something that arrives in the box with your Tod's. It is something that you, as a man, go out into the world and seek. Why? Because of the all-powerful presence of free will, liberalism, temptation, and that well-known devil on each of our shoulders (or just plain naiveté) - gentlemanliness is a choice. And what, moreover, does this membership entail? A creed. A personal manifesto. A promise to the world around you that you will embrace the values and principles that a gentleman would.
Men have been writing such creeds for almost all of time - for all of written time, at least. And why should you do as the men before us have (is that not tired, aged and old)? I think Isaac Newton said why well, because we can see the farthest when "standing upon the shoulders of giants". And those giants have composed credos in the form of poems and prose, simple lists or entire novels, and sometimes one single sentence. Many of which still exist as a pillar for men and their endeavors today.
For example, The True Gentleman is the creed of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of the largest fraternal organizations to date. For over 50 years, Brothers and pledges of Sigma Alpha Epsilon have said the True Gentleman – a single sentence first published in the Baltimore Sun and later used in their pledge manual – The Phoenix:
"The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe."
- John Walter Wayland, Virginia 1899
Your personal creed needn’t be a masterfully structured sentence as these frat brethren recite. The modern man’s manifesto is often in the form of a simple list. A set of bullet points that say “I believe” and/or “I will”. So if your poetry skills aren’t up to par, relax. All you need is a good idea of the values and principles that guide your virtue (hopefully not a lack thereof), and you’ve got yourself a creed. Even better, there is no such thing as plagiarism here. Use the words of those thoughtful giants who’ve come before us – stand upon their shoulders and find one that’s your favorite to recite, emulate, simulate, or add to.
Below is a video of Ben Kingsley reciting Edgar Albert Guest's "My Creed".
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