Reawakening Manners and Morality in Men

Improve Your Presence


What is presence?  Before you improve your presence, you must understand presence.  There are several definitions that need to be considered.   First and foremost, presence is the act of being present.  The second definition of presence is the being, carriage, or air of a person, especially stately or distinguished.  And finally presence can be defined as a noteworthy quality of poise and effectiveness.   So what does all that mean?  The guy who walks into a room and everybody turns to look?  He has presence.  The actor that walks on set and immediately commands the scene.  He has presence.  The story teller at the dinner table that controls the mood of the event with his charming tales and anecdotes.  He has presence.  We’ve all known guys that walk into a room and suck the very air out of it. They all have presence, and with some effort you can improve your presence as well.

There are a few things that all men with presence have in common; appealing physical appearance, control of body language, excellent communication, and energy.

Physical Appearance

Physical appearance is not necessarily attractiveness.  And for those guys who are in the upper echelons of comeliness, your looks do not substitute for presence.  You can control many aspects of your appearance, starting with your outfit.  Dress appropriately for the occasion.  If you show up to a baseball game in a tux, you do not look stately.  You look foolish.  Likewise, showing up to a party in jeans and a used gym shirt is also unbecoming.  You want wear an outfit that is as formal as the venue and the host.  This is basic social etiquette.  In order to have presence, you should dress slightly more formal than the event.  If others are in jeans and t-shirts, you should be in a nice polo.  If polo shirts are the norm, wear a button down.  The balance is to be well dressed but not overdressed.  Stick to classic tones and styles.  You want to be remembered for who you are, not what you wore.  If you find yourself wearing an ensemble, go take off some accessories.  Men wear outfits and uniforms.  Flash, flair, and dazzle should not be in your vocabulary, and certainly not be in your wardrobe.

You also need to be tall.  Not everybody has that genetic advantage, but you can add several inches to your stature by standing up straight and not slouching.  Improving your posture is something that requires a little time and effort, but is well worth it.  Studies have shown that people are attracted to taller men, that they get paid more, and have better luck in the romance department.  Do not slouch your shoulders and walk around with your head down like a whipped dog.  Just work on maintaining a natural and erect posture and you’ll do fine.  This is something you should practice beforehand.  You want to have your back straight and your chin up, but you don’t want to overcorrect and have your chest stuck out like Johnny Bravo.  Increasing your stature even a little bit helps to increase your presence.

Another part of improving your physical appearance is to stop hiding. Do not enter a room, lap it once, then head for the nearest shadowy corner.  Men with presence gravitate toward the light.  You need to minimize or eliminate all self-consciousness or self-doubt in order to project a presence.  You need to be comfortable in your own skin, and comfortable in the light.

Body language

Body language says a lot about you, your confidence level, and your comfort with a situation.  You want to face people square and open.  This demonstrates to your audience that you are comfortable and relaxed.  Standing on an angle is a defensive posture, also known as a closed stance to boxers and martial artists.  You are presenting less of yourself as a target, which is a good thing in boxing, but it makes you seem less confident in a social setting.

Eye contact is something you’ve heard harped on over and over.  The reason that everybody says eye contact is good for establishing a rapport is because it works.  You want to look people in the eyes, but don’t do it so much that it becomes creepy or makes the other person uncomfortable.  Do not get into staring contests, it makes you seem petty.  You want to look into your audiences eyes and engage them.  If you do this properly you can make it seem to each individual that you are speaking directly to them as if they were the only person in the room.  A mental trick to help you improve this skill is to attempt to memorize the eye color of each person you meet.  As an added bonus, this can help you remember their name later.

Nervousness can undermine your presence.  You don’t want to appear confident, you want to BE confident.  Two key ingredients to banishing nervousness are breathing and relaxing.  If you can, take a moment prior to going inside, and gather yourself.  Collect your thoughts, banish anything in your mind that isn’t relevant to the event at hand, be it a meeting, a party, a social gathering, an interview, etc.  Take a few deep breaths and clear your mind.  This will calm your nerves and bring the task at hand into focus in your mind.  Like a recent string of Amp energy drink commercials has been telling us, “Before every moment, there is a moment.”  Also, no fidgeting.  No pen clicking, no napkin shredding, nothing but a cool calm and collected demeanor.

In some cases you can make an entrance.  This is the moment most of the other men in the room will size you up.  Depending on the venue, you can almost always walk in with confidence.  You were invited; you are supposed to be there, so act like it.  Don’t slink in quietly.  This, like so many other things, can be overdone.  You do not want to burst into the room so dramatically that you almost fall over like Kramer from the hit show Seinfeld.  Enter with some spring in your step, but don’t bust in the doors and declare yourself to the world.  If I haven’t made this clear yet, allow me to reiterate; being loud, obnoxious, flashy or comical does not give your presence.  If you are entering with more than yourself, hold the door for the others, especially if they are women.  Allow any men to enter before you, but don’t immediately follow them in.  Allow for a little pause before you enter so that you can enter effectively alone.  If you are bringing a lady to the event, enter with her.  Stand in the entrance long enough to take stock of the situation, and notice the room and everyone in it.  Something I like to do is locate the facilities, and the exits.  Both pieces of information will probably be of use at some point during your stay.


This section probably warrants an article all on its own, or perhaps several.  A vital component of effective communication and presence is this: listen.  You want each person you encounter to feel like they are alone in the room and they have your undivided attention, even in the middle of a group.  This is done by listening.  Not just hearing them, but actually listening to what they have to say.  You should listen at least twice as much as you talk in any engagement.  When you do chose to speak, make sure it is only when you have something to contribute to the conversation.  If you’re busy thinking about your next amusing story, rehearsing it in your mind, then you are not listening.  When you do speak, pause for a second to gather yourself first.  This will help eliminate filler words and stumbling.  A long dramatic pause isn’t needed, just half a heartbeat to shift your brain from active listening to active speaking.  Asking pointed questions and allowing others to answer will let you to lead conversations without dominating them.  Every one you meet should come away thinking that they were important to you and the conversation should reflect that.  Make it about them, not about you.

I like to pay people compliments, genuine ones.  When paying compliments, do it in private, or quiet conversation.  This is much like tithing.  If you tithe loudly for everybody to see, then your reward is only in the praise people give you.  You do not need to tell that lady across the room that you like her dress in earshot of 27 other people.  This falls under the loud obnoxious behavior that we’ve discussed several times before.  Paying someone a compliment in front of everyone is doing it for your benefit, so they can hear your excellently delivered, suavely spoken words.  Compliments given in private actually mean something to the other person.  If you have presence, you do not need to call attention to yourself.


The energy you bring to an event is important. In order to be engaging, you must first be engaged.  I know, I sound all mystical and kung fu-y but let me explain. If you are worried about filing your taxes, checking your phone for sports updates, planning your next vacation, or any other thought pattern that takes your focus away from the here and now, you are not engaged.  This will register plainly on your face and in your actions.  If you go into autopilot mode, you are not present and therefore have no presence.

If you know you are going to have a late evening, do something vigorous beforehand to liven up.  Don’t be the guy on the couch yawning and trying to stay awake.  Though it wasn’t officially recognized Randy Gardner, a 17 year old high school student, stayed up for 11 straight days during a science project as a bid for the Guinness record.  However tired you are, you can make it through the next few hours without yawning, or tipping over into your soup bowl.

This next point will probably become its own article someday.  No Drinking!  You must be in firm control of your full mental capacity at all times.  While I believe I can make a strong argument for a Christian man to not drink, I realize that I’m probably in the minority on that point.  If you are expected to drink, limit yourself to 1.  You do not want to hear embarrassing stories about your behavior the next morning. You do not need liquid courage, you need actual courage.  If something requires you to drink to accomplish it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

So let’s recap.

  • Be yourself, only better dressed and groomed
  • Be in total control of your body, your nerves, and your actions
  • Listen more than you talk
  • Make others feel important to you
  • Act like you belong there
  • Be present
  • No drinking!

There is a lot to think about here, but if you pick one thing to work on, like posture, until it becomes second nature and then work on something else you can become a natural presence in any encounter.  It costs you nothing to improve yourself in this way, and the benefits can be quite far reaching.

The Morals of Chess


This article was written by Benjamin Franklin in 1786, and discusses the virtues of playing chess.  It was held for a long time that this was the first article written by an American about the game, though the famous lost manuscript of Rev. Lewis Rou would predate it, if any copies of it could be found and verified.  It remains to this day one of the most famous chess manuscripts in the world.  Benjamin Franklin was not a man of idle pastimes and used chess as a tool to hone his mind.  This text from his autobiography really shows the character of a man who could turn what others saw as a fun game into something that improved himself in some way.

“I had begun in 1733 to study languages. I soon made myself so much a master of the French as to be able to read the Books with ease. I then undertook the Italian. An acquaintance who was also learning it, used often to tempt me to play Chess with him. Finding this took up too much of the Time I had to spare for study, I at length refused to play any more, unless on this condition, that the victor in every Game, should have the Right to impose a Task, either in parts of the Grammar to be got by heart, or in Translation, which task the vanquish’d was to perform upon honor before our next Meeting. As we played pretty equally we thus beat one another into that Language.”
To Ben Franklin, chess was not a game.  It was a tool useful for shaping the mind, for improving the person, and finally, having accomplished some form of self betterment, for enjoyment.  He highlights its virtues and values in the article he wrote for The Columbian Magazine which it subsequently published in the December issue of 1786.  I encourage you to learn chess if you do not know how to play, study chess if you do know how to play, and master it if you already a student of it.  There is room for improvement in each persons game, and by extension, in each person.  Don’t take my word on the values of chess, take Benjamin Franklin’s.

To the Editor of The Columbian Magazine

Sir, Playing at Chess, is the most ancient and the most universal game known among men; for its original is beyond the memory of history, and it has, for numberless ages, been the amusement of all the civilized nations of Asia, the Persians, the Indians, and the Chinese. Europe has had it above 1000 years; the Spaniards have spread it over their part of America, and it begins lately to make its appearance in these northern states. It is so interesting in itself, as not to need the view of gain to induce engaging in it; and thence it is never played for money. Those, therefore, who have leisure for such diversions, cannot find one that is more innocent; and the following piece, written with a view to correct ( among a few young friends) some little improprieties in the practice of it, shows at the same time that it may, in its effects on the mind, be not merely innocent, but advantageous, to the vanquished as well as to the victor.

The Morals of Chess

The game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it, so as to become habits, ready on all occasions. For life is a kind of chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effects of prudence or the want of it. By playing at chess, then, we may learn:

1. Foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend to an action: for it is continually occurring to the player, “If I move this piece, what will be the advantages of my new situation? What use can my adversary make of it to annoy me? What other moves can I make to support it, and to defend myself from his attacks? “

2. Circumspection, which surveys the whole chess-board, or scene of action, the relations of the several pieces and situations, the dangers they are respectively exposed to, the several possibilities of their aiding each other; the probabilities that the adversary may make this or that move, and attack this or the other piece; and what different means can be used to avoid his stroke, or turn its consequences against him.

3. Caution, not to make our moves too hastily. This habit is best acquired by observing strictly the laws of the game, such as, If you touch a piece, you must move it somewhere; if you set it down, you must let it stand. And it is therefore best that these rules should be observed, as the game thereby becomes more the image of human life, and particularly of war; in which, if you have incautiously put yourself into a bad and dangerous position, you cannot obtain your enemy’s leave to withdraw your troops, and place them more securely; but you must abide by all the consequences of your rashness.

And lastly, we learn by chess the habit of not being discouraged by present bad appearances in the state of our affairs, the habit of hoping for a favorable change, and that of persevering in the search of resources. The game is so full of events, there is such a variety of turns in it, the fortune of it is so subject to sudden vicissitudes, and one so frequently, after long contemplation, discovers the means of extricating one’s self from a supposed insurmountable difficulty, that one is encouraged to continue the contest to the last, in hopes of victory by our own skill, or, at least, of giving a stale mate, by the negligence of our adversary. And whoever considers, what in chess he often sees instances of, that particular pieces of success are apt to produce presumption, and its consequent, inattention, by which more is afterwards lost than was gained by the preceding advantage; while misfortunes produce more care and attention, by which the loss may be recovered, will learn not to be too much discouraged by the present success of his adversary, nor to despair of final good fortune, upon every little check he receives in the pursuit of it.

That we may, therefore, be induced more frequently to chuse this beneficial amusement, in preference to others which are not attended with the same advantages, every circumstance, that may encrease the pleasure of it, should be regarded; and every action or word that is unfair, disrespectful, or that in any way may give uneasiness, should be avoided, as contrary to the immediate intention of both the players, which is, to pass the time agreeably.

Therefore  1st. If it is agreed to play according the strict rules, then those rules are to be exactly observed by both parties; and should not be insisted on for one side, while deviated from by the other; for this is not equitable.

2. If it is agreed not to observe the rules exactly, but one party demands indulgences, he should be as willing to allow them to the other.

3. No false move should ever be made to extricate yourself out of a difficulty, or to gain advantage. There can be no pleasure in playing with a person once detected in such unfair practice.

4. If your adversary is long in playing, you ought not to hurry him, or express any uneasiness at his delay. You should not sing, or whistle, nor look at your watch, nor take up a book to read, nor make a tapping with your feet on the floor, or with your fingers on the table, nor do any  thing that may disturb his attention. For all these things displease. And they do not show in playing, but your craftiness or your rudeness.

5. You ought not to endeavour to amuse and deceive your adversary, by pretending to have made bad moves, and saying you have now lost the game, in order to make him secure and careless, and inattentive to your schemes; for this is fraud, and deceit, not skill at the game.

6. You must not, when you have gained a victory, use any triumphing or insulting expression, nor show too much pleasure; but endeavour to console your adversary, and make him less dissatisfied with himself by every kind and civil expression, that may be used with truth; such as, You understand the game better than I, but you are a little inattentive; or, You play too fast; or, You had the best of the game, but something happened to divert your thoughts, and that turned it in my favour.

7. If you are a spectator, while others play, observe the most perfect silence. For if you give advice, you offend both parties; him, against whom you may give it, because it may cause the loss of his game; him, in whose favour you give it, because, tho’ it may be good, and he follows it, he loses the pleasure he might have had, if you had permitted him to think till it occurred to himself. Even after a move or moves, you must not, by replacing the pieces, show how it might have been played better: for that displeases, and may occasion disputes or doubts about their true situation. All talking to the players, lessens or diverts their attention, and is therefore displeasing; nor should you give the least hint to either party, by any kind of noise or motion. – If you do, you are unworthy to be a spectator.-If you have a mind to exercise or show your judgment, do it in playing your own game when you have an opportunity, not in criticizing or meddling with, or counseling, the play of others.

Lastly. If the game is not to be played rigorously, according to the rules above mentioned, then moderate your desire of victory over your adversary, and be pleased with one over yourself. Snatch not eagerly at every advantage offered by his unskillfulness or inattention; but point out to him kindly that by such a move he places or leaves a piece in danger and unsupported; that by another he will put his king in a dangerous situation. By this generous civility (so opposite to the unfairness above forbidden) you may indeed happen to lose the game to your opponent, but you will win what is better, his esteem, his respect, and his affection; together with the silent approbation and good will of impartial spectators.

The Code of the West


The Code of the West is not a set of rules. Rules can be broken. There are not enough rules in the world to make people do what is right. The Code of the West is a set of principles, which speak to the character of the man who owns them. They cannot be broken.  Therein lies the difference between rules and principles.  Rules define what you do, whereas principles define who you are.

Here are the principles that defined life on the open range.  I challenge any man to find at least one of these that needs some improvement in his life, and then work on improving it.

Live each day with courage

Courage was not something spoken about amongst cowboys except to notice its absence.  Courage was a job requirement when dialy facing stampedes, quicksand, indians, blizzards, bandits and herds of cattle that weigh over a ton a head.  A cowboy without courage would not be a cowboy for long.  His hesitation and fear could cost those he rode with their lives and he would not long find himself employed.  A cowboy is said to be “a man with courage and a horse,” and the virtues of fortitude and courage were as basic a requirement as breathing and having a pulse in order to do their jobs.

Modern application of the code:  Having courage is not just jumping into a pool to save someone’s life.  It is also being willing to speak up and say that something isn’t right, even against your friends, colleagues, partners, and bosses.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. ~1 Corinthians 16:13

Take pride in your work

Cowboys did not see themselves as simply  hired hands, but thought of themselves as knights of the planes sitting tall in their saddles.  Their pride growing from their skills in riding and roping, their capacity for hard work and their indifference to danger or hard living on the range.  Cowboys certainly did not enjoy all aspects of their job, but they did everything to the best of their abilities.  Digging fence posts is not glamorous work and no cowboy ever enjoyed it, but they all did it.  They dug deep and straight so that the fence was solid and straight, they took pride in riding by the fence the next time through and thinking “I built that.”

Modern application of the code: There are a great many jobs that nobody enjoys doing, but still need to be done.  If you sweep the floor, do it so that it shines.  If you flip burgers, cook them in such a way that you would enjoy eating them.  Whatever you do, do it well.  If it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing it right.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving. ~ Colossians 3:23-24

Always finish what you start

If a cowboy signed on for a ride or a season, you knew that he would see it through to the end.  Cowboys hated quitters, whiners, and complainers.  In the movie Red River some cowboys have to make a hard journey that is known to be perilous, and John Wayne delivers a speech at the onset of the ride.  “Nobody has to come along.  We’ll still have a job for you when we get back.  But remember this: Every man who signs on for the drive agrees to finish it.  There’ll be no quitting along the way ~ not by me, not by you.”

Modern application of the code: If you begin a job, finish it.  If you start a project, see it through to the end.  Whatever it is that currently has your attention, stay the course.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.  ~2 Timothy 4:7

Do what has to be done

Cowboys stand up for what is right.  They deal with injustice and exact retribution when due.  To do anything less would be down right uncivil.  A cowboy was honor bound to do the right thing, even when the odds were stacked against him.  The test of a cowboy’s honor was in how much he would risk to keep it untarnished.  Standing up for the little guy, or just for the principles in which he believes are stock and trade for a cowboy.

Modern application of the code:  Every boy growing up dreams of being a hero, and standing up for truth and justice, but somewhere along the way we lose the action that goes along with the ideal.  Have you ever witnessed an accident where everybody is just standing around and nobody called 911?  Dozens of observers all assumed somebody else was doing it, and it didn’t happen.  Has the phrase “somebody should do something about that” ever crossed your mind?  Take personal responsibility for your life and the lives of others around you.  Do not merely strive to not be a part of the problem but actively seek to be a part of the solution, wherever you find yourself.  Help your neighbors with their groceries, do good deeds, leave the campsite cleaner than when you got there.  Make a positive impact on every life you touch.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. ~ Galatians 6:9

Be tough, but fair

The toughness of a cowboy is not to be disputed.  They are depicted as hard men, tough as nail in all modern media both print and on screen.  They had to be to survive hard times, hard lands, and the many aspects of their job that wanted to kill them; beasts, bandits, Indians, and the like.  The cowboys toughness, while legendary, was also tempered by his fairness.  Cowboys would share their last scraps of food with a stranger before turning them away, and would not cheat in business dealings.  Every cowboy had a turn at being down on his luck and in need of assistance from someone, and they in turn would not fail to help someone in need.

Modern application of the code:  The golden rule used to be a way of life, but has been regulated to nothing more than a Sunday School teaching for suckers.  It needs to be the very core of your moral compass if you truly want to be known as fair in your dealings.  It is simple to apply.  In any situation you can simply ask yourself “How would I want to be treated?” and this should provide you an excellent guide to what is a fair deal.  This can be applied to dealing with customers, business partners, spouses, children and strangers alike.  If you truly treat others the way you want to be treated yourself, you will find that you strike a “square deal” much more easily.

“So in everything, do unto others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” ~ Matthew 7:12

When you make a promise, keep it

Cowboys come from a time when a handshake was a binding contract between men, and reneging on a debt was unheard of.  No man would ride with a cowboy that couldn’t be trusted.  They came from a time when honor was a key to life, and failing to keep your word was akin to lying and cheating, both hangable offences on the open range.  If a cowboy said he’d do a thing, then there was no question that he would.

Modern application of the code:  The code is simple, only make promises that you can and will keep.  The trick is not in keeping promises, but in taking more care with what you promise.  Do not promise things that are out of your control.  This applies especially to your children, and spouse, but equally so to business partners.  Only make promises that you can keep, and then be sure to keep them.  We need to turn away from our legalistic, 1,000 page binding contracts and get back to a time when men would shake hands and mean it.

But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your “No,’ ‘No.’ ~ Matthew 5:37

Ride for the brand

Once a cowboy signed on with an outfit, he was obliged to put its needs before his own.  Loyalty was forged quickly among men that needed each other for survival on the open range.  This loyalty was not a blind unquestioning allegiance to the boss simply because he was the one that paid them, but was given only if deserved and returned.

Modern application of the code:  Be loyal to your outfit.  If you hire on at a job, do not badmouth them on facebook.  If they are not worthy of your loyalty, find another place to earn your keep.  Be loyal to your family.  So many men today speak poorly of their wives and complain about their kids with their friends.  If you cannot say good things about them, then keep your mouth shut.  You would punch another man for disrespecting your wife, you should hold yourself to an equally high standard.

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. ~ Proverbs 18:24

Talk less and say more

Cowboys are often viewed as men of little words, the strong silent type.  It might have been the isolation of his work, or the grandeur of a life in open places beneath a big sky that rendered small talk useless, but cowboys were doers, not talkers.  Cowboys often said what needed to be said,  and they were straight to the point about it.  They understood the importance of words and used them with great care.  Many cowboys were uneducated and thus not bound by the rules of grammar or polite discourse, but instead pulled their words from their experience, giving them powerful imagery and a blunt directness in their conversations.

Modern application of the code:  If something you said can be interpreted in more than one way, you didn’t say it clearly enough.  Say what you mean, avoid ambiguity, and mean what you say.  If you find yourself talking more than listening in any conversation, you need to practice this principle more.

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. ~ Proverbs 10:19

Remember that some things aren’t for sale

Often the best things in life are not things, and there are things that money cannot and should not buy.  Many of the previous aspects of the code are things a cowboys would not compromise for money; honor, integrity, pride, or his word.  Many a cowboy lost everything of material value in order to keep a firm grip on the things that truly mattered to them.

Modern application of the code: If you have to sell your principals as part of a deal, you made a very bad bargain.  Know what you believe in, then stand up for those things.  Like the mastercard commercials often tell us, there are some things that that money can’t buy.  Figure out what matters to you more than money, then be sure not to sell them.

The righteous who walks in his integrity – blessed are his children after him!  Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright. ~ Proverbs 20:7,11

Know where to draw the line

A cowboy knew his principles and would not cross them.  He knew where to draw the line.  This aspect of the code is simply a reminder that there is a code, and that it matters.

Modern application of the code:
If you have a code, be it the Code of the West or something of your own creation, live by it.  Draw the hard line, and do not cross it.

Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall. ~ Proverbs 28:18

Further study can be done with the excellent books by James P. Owen titled Cowboy Ethics, Cowboy Wisdom, and Cowboy Values. They are excellent resources, can each be read in a short sitting, and have amazing photography. They make great conversation starters if left on a coffee table, and I have referenced them more than a few times over the years.

Surviving Undulation – Recognizing Peaks and Valleys

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines undulation in these simple terms, a rising and falling in waves.  Undulation occurs in many mediums, including life itself.  Your moods, feelings, spirituality, job satisfaction, and for some, even the desire to remain living rises and falls in peaks and valleys, high points and low points, crests and troughs.  The trick to surviving the crests and troughs of life’s undulations comes simply from recognizing them for what they are, crests and troughs.

If you haven’t read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, you should.  The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a junior “tempter” named Wormwood, so as to advise him on methods of securing the damnation of a British man, known only as “the Patient”.  The 8th letter from Screwtape covers the Law of Undulation.


So you “have great hopes that the patient’s religious phase is dying away”, have you? I  always thought the Training College had gone to pieces since they put old Slubgob at the head of it, and now I am sure. Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?

Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy’s determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.) As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation—the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his life—his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty. The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it. To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us a human is primarily good; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of self-hood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures, whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to his. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct. And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot “tempt” to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is leased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys. But of course the troughs afford opportunities to our side also. Next week I will give you some hints on how to exploit them.

Your affectionate uncle


So there you have it.  Recognize that your high points and low points are transient, like all things in this life and you can enjoy the good times and endure the bad.  Do you have a challenging boss?  This too shall pass.  Do you own a troublesome puppy?  This too shall pass.  Does your teenager know everything and has no problem telling you how stupid and old you are?  This too shall pass.  If you plan for the worst (valleys) and hope for the best (peaks) then life will usually land somewhere in the middle.

If you are riding high on a mountain peak, recognize it for what it is, so you don’t get all bummed out and dejected when it doesn’t last.  Men take it especially hard when they crash off the top of a mountain. Have you ever gone to a men’s conference where you were all on fire about something, only to have reality hit you hard in the guts when you got home? If you can accept that the almighty creator of the universe really does have a plan for you, both riding high and lying low, it can make this whole undulating roller coaster much more fun to ride.

If you’ve managed to read this far, I’ll leave you with two inspirational verses to chew on, one for peaks and one for valleys.  I’ll leave it to you to decide which one is appropriate to your current state of mind.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~ Jeremiah 29:11

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. ~ James 1:2-3

Bastions of Manliness in Baltimore


I recently got the opportunity to travel to Baltimore for the first time.  I don’t often make it to the east coast, so I had a good time exploring a new city.  During my stay there I discovered a few fantastic little gems being operated by some amazing gentlemen.  These men (and women) stood out from their east coast brethren for their attitudes of service, something I found altogether lacking for the majority of my east coast experience.

As I was wandering around the harbor area I noticed that the local police were wearing some outstanding Stetson hats.  I inquired about them and they directed me toward a little shopping mall in which lay my first gem of gentlemanliness.  The charming little store was called Hats in the Belfry, which immediately drew a smile from me.  I’ve always been a sucker for clever names.  Upon entering I was greeted by an entire store full of hats, floor to ceiling.  They had everything a gentleman looking for a hat could want; top hats, fedoras, pork pies, bowlers, women’s hats, and even a few tasteful ball caps.  I was also greeted by a jovial gentleman named Keith.  He was a pleasure to talk to and his knowledge of hats must have rivaled the hatters of olden times.  After a lengthy discussion with him, I selected a well crafted black fedora with a much broader brim than my ultra stingy.  The store was a delightful surprise, nestled in amongst the more traditional tourist traps associated with waterfront malls.  If you ever find yourself near one of these stores, they are worth a look.  I saw hats ranging from the low twenties well into the low hundreds.  During my wide ranging conversations with Keith he recommended my second destination, the Quinntessential Gentleman.  Yes, they spell it with two n’s.  Maybe it’s an east coast thing.

On my way to check out the Quinntessential Gentleman, I found a second gem; the JoS. A. Bank clothing store.  I know they have them all over the country, but this one was staffed by actual gentlemen.  I wasn’t looking for anything in the way of upscale clothing, but a book in the window caught my eye in passing.  I was only in the store for a few minutes, but while I was there I watched the employees interact with a few customers and each other and I found myself to be quite impressed.  These were true gentlemen.  The deference they showed everybody was outclassed only by the clothing in the store.   I only noticed the price tag on one item, and I think I could have replaced about a quarter of my current wardrobe at the same cost, but the book I purchased was quite reasonable.  Everything in the store looked like it was hand spun out of the finest materials by clothing artisans.  It probably wasn’t but I did get that impression.  During my conversations with a well dressed, immaculately groomed gentleman named Michael, he also recommended the Quinntessential Gentleman.  Book in hand, I exited the JoS. A. Bank clothing store and continued on my way.

Much like Hats in the Belfry, I found the Quinntessential Gentleman nestled away.  It sits in the base of a large structure that if memory serves was a hotel of some sort.  I was immediately impressed with its sense of style.  It had an old school look about it, like somebody took an old black and white photo of a barber shop and added some modern colors to it, but left the rest completely unaltered.  The olden charms were in every corner, hanging from every wall, and heard in every word spoken within the walls of this shop.  They offered products from old style shave kits to magnetic collar stays and services from shaves to haircuts.  This was not just a place to come and get trimmed, it was a place to hang out and enjoy a conversation over a game of chess or pool.  I mean that literally, there is a chess board and pool table in the upstairs lounge.  Appointments are recommended for most services, but I was in luck that somebody had just canceled so they were able to fit me in for a quick trim.

Manning the desk was Karey. She was a delight to talk to, alternating between asking questions and providing local insights. We did share one particular thing in common.  When she tells people that she runs a gentleman’s shop, she gets the same reaction I get when I tell people I run a gentleman’s website; the wrong one.  She was able to squeeze me in thanks to the aforementioned cancellation, so my total time to wait was about to minutes.

I treated myself to a haircut.  The attention to detail provided will rank this amongst my top five haircuts of all time.  A hot lather and straight razor to finish the neck line ears and sideburns really made it the most precise trim I’ve ever experienced.  It would not have surprised me even a little bit if my executive barber, Jacquie, pulled out a ruler.  She was seriously that meticulous about the length of each hair she touched. Jacquie kept up a running commentary and conversation that really added to the experience.  She was as gifted a conversationalist as she was a barber.

Should you find yourself in the harbor area of Baltimore, these three places should definitely be on your itinerary.  Tell them Godly Gentleman sent you.  Who knows, if enough people do they might send me a nice hat or shaving kit.  All kickback kidding aside, I highly recommend these places for their old time charm, stand out style, and their high quality employees that genuinely care about the customers.

Faith Defined

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Jason Calhon, a good friend whom I enjoy sparring, both with martial arts and with words.

“Faith is an irrational belief in something that is impossible.”
–Emily Deschanel as Temperance Brennan, Fox Television series Bones

I rarely actually hear statements so direct as the one above, but it seems I often hear faith dismissed as something only the ignorant or foolish would possess. The word itself conjures up images of God, churches, and religious rituals of all kinds. Let us not forget the dozens of wars fought and the millions of people killed over the centuries by “faithful” people.
It amazes me to no end that people use this word constantly, as something to be cherished or held in contempt, without any clue at all what the word actually means. As I began to write this article, I wasn’t even sure I could make it long enough to be worth reading, for the meaning of the word “faith” is actually quite simple.


That’s it. It’s no more complicated than that. The word “faith” may carry religious or spiritual connotations or imply belief in unknowable things, but that is not its true meaning. It simply means trust, or belief.

Once that is understood, then what many people do not seem to realize becomes obvious. Faith itself means nothing. Faith is not an end in itself, it must have an object, and even more importantly, that object must be able to provide the need of the faith. If I need to get to work in the morning, I have to trust my car to be able to get me there. If I wish to obtain eternal life, I have to trust one who is actually able to provide eternal life.

If I didn’t trust my car, I would get another one. If I didn’t trust my God, I would get another one.

With a parallel like that, it also becomes obvious that faith need not be blind. It need not be immune to scrutiny or criticism. Faith can be based on knowledge. It can be based on experience, or research, and can be carefully examined to make certain that the object of your faith is able to provide what you need. My morning ride to work may not matter much, so it doesn’t really matter if my faith in the car is misplaced. My road to eternity matters a great deal, so I’d better make very certain that my faith in God is well placed. To steal the quote, “Eternity is a long time to be wrong.”

Billions of people around the world claim to have faith in God in some way or another. Many of them say this simply because they go into a fancy building once or twice a week. This is habit, not faith. Others have very real faith, held with conviction that can lead them to martyrdom or drive them to murder. You can’t deny the reality of that kind of faith, but again, you must examine its object. Only a god who is real deserves your faith.

So in whom do I trust? I trust Jesus Christ, the real Son of the real God. This Jesus is the one who lived a perfect life, and allowed himself to be crucified two thousand years ago to pay the price for my sins and purchase my entrance into the presence of God. This Jesus is the one who got up and walked out of his tomb after being dead for three days. This Jesus is the one who interacted with his followers for over a month after his death and resurrection, before himself going up into heaven.

If I’m wrong about Him, I’m in just as much trouble as anyone else. So how can I know?

Libraries, almost, have been written on the reliability of the Christian Bible and the accuracy of its records. We know the Bible has been reliably preserved over the centuries quite simply because we have copies of the Bible which are almost as old as the events they claim to record, and they are the same as the Bibles we have today. We have found mountains of archaeological evidence to corroborate what the Bible says. The physical sciences are also finding ways to verify what the Bible has to say about the universe.

I do not wish to minimize the importance of the written Word, but there is another reason I believe.

I know the Lord. I have met him, spoken to Him, and He to me. I’m not talking about booming voices from the sky or strange other-worldly experiences, but experiences both more subtle and more clear to me, though I doubt I could explain them to one who has not experienced the same.

I know the LORD, and He has earned my trust.

How To Give An Impressive Handshake


There are hundreds of situations that will require you to introduce, be introduced, and greet other people with a handshake.  In order to have a truly impressive handshake you must understand it’s purpose.  While the exact origin of the handshake is unknown, it is generally accepted in western literature that handshakes were developed as a greeting in order to demonstrate that you were not concealing a weapon in your hand.  The handshake was a gesture of good will toward another person indicating that you meant them no harm.  A modern handshake should similarly convey some of that good will by indicating your openness toward the other person.

Handshakes really come down to two things, timing and technique.  We’ll look at technique first. Your handshake can make a very real impression about your character.  Are you Ivan the KnuckleKrusher, Wussy McWimperson, or Clingy von Neverletyougo?  You are being judged by your handshake, so make sure it’s a good one.


  • Make sure your hand is firm, nobody likes shaking hands with limp overcooked pasta.
  • While firm is good, hand crushing is not.  Nobody is impressed with your hand strength.
  • Hold their hand for 2-3 seconds.  Less will seem like you are uncomfortable and trying to escape, more and they will be uncomfortable and have to try to escape.
  • A few up down shakes will do, you are not trying to inflate a bicycle tire or bring up water from a mile deep well with a hand pump.
  • If you hands are sweaty, wipe them on your pants nonchalantly first.  If you are prone to sweaty hands, keep them out of your pockets in situations where greetings are immanent.
  • If your hands are cold, keep them in your pocket to warm them up.
  • Make sure your hands are clean.  You want them to remember you, not your lunch.

There is your basic technique and for the most part people don’t have too much trouble here.  It is the timing that can cause the greatest embarrassment in the form of an extended, unnoticed hand.  Many people try to avoid giving handshakes because they are afraid of being left hanging.  The most important thing you can do to avoid this is to make sure you have eye contact with the person who’s hand you want to shake prior to extending your hand.


  • Don’t extend your hand until you have the other persons attention.  If they are distracted or in a conversation, just wait instead of interrupting.
  • Handshakes should be face to face, don’t approach from the side with you hand extended because it’s difficult for them to see you.
  • Greet the person audibly first, to ensure you are the focus of their attention.
  • If your hand is in the center first, wait for them to fully arrive so you don’t end up shaking their fingers instead of their hand.
  • If you are approaching their extended hand, extend your hand at a slight angle instead of sliding your fingers past theirs, this will prevent them from gripping too early and getting only fingers.

Knowing how and when and for how long to extend your hand takes some practice, and like driving it’s not just about you.  You have to anticipate the other person and do everything in your power to make sure they know where you and and what you’re doing.  Making eye contact and verbally greeting them goes a long way towards making your handshake a successful event.

Other Considerations

  • Don’t pull them close to you when shaking hands, this violates personal space and can trigger a fight-or-flight response in some people.
  • Don’t overextend your reach, go to them to shake hands
  • Attitude matters, be warm, inviting, friendly, and remember to smile
  • Relax, don’t hold your breath while shaking hands
  • Don’t grab their hand with your other hand, or rub their hand, or pat their back.
  • No awkward handshake/hug combos, either commit to the hug, or the handshake, but not both.
  • Do not shake hands if you are sick.  You do not need to apologize, simply hold your hand up in a stop gesture and say “I’d love to shake your hand, but I’m recovering from a cold and don’t want to risk it.”  The other party will not be offended.

Feminine Considerations

Be mindful of the fairer sex and always be gentle with their hands.  Reduce you hand pressure by 50% or more, even if the woman is engaging in a solid handshake with you.  It is possible to be firm and still gentle.  Always release her hand in a timely manner so she doesn’t have to pull away.  Do NOT rub her hand or comment on it’s features, texture, softness, nail color, or anything else.  The handshake turned into a hand kiss maneuver should only be attempted by the supremely confident gentleman in the rarest of circumstances.  If you have any doubts as to what appropriate circumstances are, then the answer is no, don’t kiss her hand.

Cultural Considerations

Be cognizant of cultural differences in customs, rituals and greetings.  This applies mainly to those who travel frequently, but it is worth noting that not all people shake hands the same way.  Here are some of the many handshake variations found in our very diverse world.

  • In Japan it is normal to shake hands frequently. Sometimes a bow is included or substituted.
  • In Europe you shake hands whenever you meet someone even if you know them well.
  • Russians tend to shake hands frequently but never while wearing gloves.
  • A strong handshake and good grip are appreciated in South Africa.
  • A vigorous, pumping handshake is normal for the Chinese.
  • Men in Arabian cultures encourage a long and limp handshake along with a specific verbal greeting.
  • People in Panama greet each other with eye contact combined with shaking hands.
  • The French always shake hands in business meetings but all other greetings involve kissing the cheeks.
  • In Kuwait shaking hands is only used for male strangers who meet the first time.  Shaking hands with an unrelated female is considered inappropriate.
  • Residents of India and Pakistan shake hands by grasping your hand in both of their hands and holding your hand briefly.

The Perfect Handshake

Researchers an the University of Manchester in northwest England spent some time working on the perfect handshake problem plaguing our world and discovered a formula for the perfect handshake.

PH = v (e2 + ve2)(d2) + (cg + dr)2 + p{(4<s>2)(4<p>2)}2 + (vi + t + te)2 + {(4<c>2 )(4<du>2)}2

I won’t get into the details here, but will leave it as an exercise for the mathematically inclined to analyze.  Or, if you like pictures, Chevrolet turned the formula into a fantastic info graphic. Click on the image to view it in high resolution. It includes an explanation of the formula.

Finally, like anything in life, practice makes permanent.  Ask a brother, sister, friend, co-worker, parent, or somebody else you are comfortable with to practice with you for a few minutes and provide feedback.  Now go make a good impression with an impressive gentlemanly handshake.

Distracted Dad

Father ignoring child

I got to go to my first Daddy-Daughter dance last week.  My eldest daughter and I had a wonderful time on our date and dancing the night away.  We ordered what may possibly be the largest ice cream Sunday ever made.  I was not expecting the ‘feed a large family’ size of it.  We had a great time trying to devour it.  We failed.  Overall I had a wonderful time dancing and having fun with my daughter and making her feel special.

While I was at the dance I noticed a lot of disengaged fathers standing on the sidelines playing with their phones, not actively participating in any activities with their daughters.  It made me kind of sad, but one dad takes the cake as my new poster child for disinterested daddy of the year.

This guy was sitting on the side with a freaking laptop. This was not a cute little pocket PC kind of thing, but a full on big sized 17 incher.  His ‘I don’t want to be here’ demeanor was so blatant I actually stopped mid-stride and stared at him for a moment.  Perhaps I’m judging to easily, and he was a member of the elite Air Force Cyber Command and he was single-handedly saving the good old USofA from a legion of evil hackers.  Maybe he was remotely monitoring a sensitive science experiment that would consume the region in a black hole if any of the variables went outside the parameters.  I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet you dollars to donuts he was playing Angry Birds.

No matter what he was doing, I do know one thing for sure.  Somewhere in that sea of princesses was a sad little girl, wishing her daddy would dance with her.

Don’t be the kind of dad that plays with his phone at the diner table.  The world WILL NOT end if you don’t respond to emails in nanoseconds.  If you don’t look at your children when they are talking to you, you will receive the same treatment from them when they grow into teenagers.  “Yea yea, whatever dad, can’t you see I’m on the phone?”

Would you lay down your life for your daughter?  Of course you would.  Why then, can you not lay down your cell phone, or laptop, or pager, or e-reader for her?

Don’t be the guy who shows up at a daddy-daughter dance with a laptop.