A couple days ago, while scanning my bookshelves, I stopped at the section containing several volumes about manhood, chivalry, knighthood, and etiquette. My parents taught me the basics of politeness and manners, but I have long desired to become a true gentleman, chivalrous and gallant, a man of honor and decorum.
So for mere fun, I pulled out one of the books written to young men and read the first few pages of what “every young gentleman should know.” Throughout most of life, I have been accused of using “I’m sorry” too much. And as I think through my years, I’m sad and sorry to admit it is likely true. My concept of gentlemanly manners is that he tries to inconvenience others as little as possible. I agree there are times when a gentleman must be brash and harsh – especially when it involves truth, honor, or those whom he is called to serve and protect. But all in all, a gentleman is just that, a gentleman. He is kind, courteous, and seeks the lowest position to honor and serve those around him. He is outward focused without a thought or concern for himself. Thus, when I find myself in a position where I momentarily inconvenience someone, I feel I must apologize. Interrupting someone by calling them on the phone, bumping into someone in line, accidentally walking in front of someone at the store – I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
As I read, I came across these liberating words: “You only say, ‘I’m sorry,’ when you have done something wrong. You say, ‘Excuse me,’ when you are merely inconveniencing someone.” Using quirky examples, the authors demonstrate that a gentleman, however old, should be using “excuse me” far more than “I’m sorry.” And I realized, I was all backwards, to which I must say “I’m sorry.”