A modest man
August 14, 2007 § Leave a comment
WANTED – A boy that stands straight, sits straight, acts straight, and talks straight;
A boy whose fingernails are not in mourning, whose ears are clean, whose shoes are polished, whose clothes are brushed, whose hair is combed, and whose teeth are well cared for;
A boy who listens carefully when he is spoken to, who asks questions when he does not understand, and does not ask questions about things that are none of his business;
A boy that moves quickly and makes as little noise about it as possible;
A boy who whistles in the street, but does not whistle where he ought keep still;
A boy who looks cheerful, has a ready smile for everybody, and never sulks;
A boy who is polite to every man and respectful to every woman and girl;
A boy who does not smoke cigarettes and has no desire to learn how;
A boy who is more eager to know how to speak good English than to talk slang;
A boy that never bullies other boys nor allows other boys to bully him;
A boy who, when he does not know a thing says, “I don’t know,” and when has made a mistake says “I’m sorry,” and when he is asked to do a thing says “I’ll try”;
A boy who looks you right in the eye and tells the truth every time;
A boy who is eager to read good books;A boy who would rather put in his spare time at the YMCA gymnasium than to gamble for pennies in a back room;
A boy who does not want to be “smart” nor in any wise attract attention;
A boy who would rather lose his job or be expelled from school than to tell a lie or be a cad;
A boy whom other boys like;
A boy who is at ease in the company of girls;
A boy who is not sorry for himself, and not forever thinking and talking about himself;
A boy who is friendly with his mother, and more intimate with her than anyone else;
A boy who makes you feel good when he is around;
A boy who is not a goody-goody, a prig, or a little Pharisee, but just healthy, happy, and full of life;
This boy is wanted everywhere. The family wants him, the school wants him, the office wants him, the boys want him, the girls want him, all creation wants him.
In The Children’s Book of Virtues William J. Bennet quotes the above “want ad” saying that it came from the early 20th century. Ignoring the rather antiquated language I still find it something well worth reading. I would hope that my two sons can be such “wanted men”. The boy described above is a boring, good, modest young man. I would hope that my daughters find them.
Several months ago I wrote about modesty. Not just as a function of dress, but as a character trait. Modesty is the fruit of virtue of temperance. It is sorely lacking in society today. Modest men and women are so much more appealing to me then those who flaunt and parade their possessions, their accomplishments, their gifts.
I recently ran across an unpleasant situation with someone who is probably the best example of an immodest person I can imagine. This man is someone who can hardly wait to tell you how great they are. He loves to boast about his income, his physical prowess, his wit. He will go on and on about how great he is, how “hot” his girlfriend is and worse he relishes the chance to “one-up” who ever he is with. Why does he do this? Because he is dead absolute afraid that someone will think he isn’t good enough. He is terrified of being judged and found wanting. He would rather lie about his income than admit he struggles some months to get by. He would rather crush the other person in a conversation than admit they might have a valid point. He would rather go into debt to buy clothing and pay for meals out than have someone think he isn’t successful. It is a sad situation — he is running from his own reality.
His lack of modesty is off-putting. He is trying to impress and he certainly succeeds in leaving an impression. I could probably go into some detail about why he is this way. How he was told “You’re great” time and time again, but never believed it deep down. How much pride can you take in a victory when everyone gets a ribbon? How can you believe your parents and teachers when they tell you “good job” and you know you didn’t try very hard. The underlying lack of honest self esteem, the fear that someday you will be discovered as not as good as everything thinks and tells you are is crippling. But in the end we must all make a choice about old wounds. Do we let them shape us or do we honestly face them and let them be shaped by us into something we can learn from? I am a firm believer in letting go of how you got here and dealing with what you have.
So what I see in the man above is what I see in so many. Desperate fear covered up by bravado. Temperance would say “I am content with being the person God created me to be.” So the need to display and brag melts away. When one really understands that everything we are and everything we have is a gift from God then it becomes rather silly to be immodest about ourselves. When we look very closely and see that what we have and what we accomplish are so small compared to what God has for us and what Christ has given for us it is almost embarrassing to try to point it out.
St. Augustine said “.. temperance is love giving itself entirely to that which is loved ..” I think men have such a great capacity for doing good. They want to serve, to be committed to a cause and a passion. When nothing better is given them they will compete for stuff. That is a sad thing, because the pursuit of having the most is endless and empty. When you have no horn to listen to but your own you end up blowing it a bit too loud.