“The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone; but the way an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman. The power which the strong have over the weak, the magistrate over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly; the forbearing and inoffensive use of all this power and authority, or the total abstinence from it, when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light. The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He can only forgive; he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which imparts sufficient strength to let the past be put the past.”
General Robert E. Lee

A Twitter friend sent me this quote and I was struck by its sheer simplicity and poignancy. Many, many books and blogs are on the web with detailed steps on how to “appear” to be genteel. Style Etiquette sites will tell you what to do in a professional & social setting. But what is most interesting to me is this preoccupation with the surface, or “what it looks like in public, in front of people. What most books and blogs don’t teach or tell you is how to really sound this down into the very fiber of your being. I mean what good is a bespoke suit, a fabulous pair of shoes if the man (or woman for that matter) is wasting away on the inside. No amount of clothing will hide deficiencies we might have in our personalities. I’m not saying that anyone has not had this epiphany before. What I am saying is that there needs to be a greater discussion about this issue.

We live in superficial unreality TV world filled with instant make-overs and we can convince ourselves that just by changing our “look” people will believe that we are the person that we present to them. This issue cannot even be reduced to a monthly column or a section in a blog, book or magazine. It must speak louder. Of course, there are some organizations that are out there promoting this line of thought. We teach our sons and daughters that “It’s the inside that counts” But until we see a cultural shift in the way we individually think about inner person vs. the outer appearance, we will continue to just scratch the surface on what it means to make the changes that go beyond “What Not Wear” or “Who” you’re wearing, but how to make meaningful, internal “Transformations” that really make us attractive and stylish.

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