How to Become a Lady
Posted on September 27th, 2010
She walked – or maybe swaggered – into the room, one hand in her pocket, the other holding the strap of her purse. Her dark-wash jeans were just a little tight and cut a crisp line across the toe of her stiletto, hovering just above the ground behind the heel. Her shirt, a clingy jersey knit, accentuated her culturally-chic look. She was standing next to a bar stool talking to an acquaintance, guffawing in overt delight at her partner’s humor. She waved her hands wildly in the air as she talked, tilting dangerously in the stilettos. Her voice, harshly low and loud, echoed across the restaurant. She turned to me at the hostess station and I looked into two heavily-lined eyes.
“So will I get a table today?” she snapped.
I showed her to a table and returned to my post to be greeted by a well-dressed man. He peered into the dining room and asked, “Did a lady come in here?” Before I could answer, he spotted his feminine friend and joined her across the room. Perhaps it was a good thing he didn’t give me a chance to answer his question, because I would have had to say “no.”
The days of ladies and gentlemen seem to be long gone when I meet women like that – and I meet them everywhere. That is our culture: an entire society of people who believe “being themselves” gives credence to whatever action they choose to take. But it’s not only the world that misses the mark of grace and poise; many of us, dear Christian girls, miss it too!
It’s a hard world in which to learn to be a lady. Truthfully, those who seek it are few and far between. Being a “lady” is a cultural term passed down from the days of English lords and nobles. Today it means that a woman has class: not in the sense of her or her family’s income, but that she acts on a level that supersedes her financial status. It’s not her wallet that makes her classy, it’s her character.
A few years ago for Christmas I received the book How to Be a Lady: A Contemporary Guide to Common Courtesy. A little hot-pink handbook is all it was, but the quippy lines inside were amazingly consistent with the heart of biblical womanhood. I still keep the book on my desk and reference it before I go out. It holds tips on everything from setting a table to dressing for a wedding to manners at the office. According to the book, being a lady has a lot to it:
- A lady always respects other people’s time whether at the office or at home
- A lady returns any item she borrows in a timely manner
- A lady never points out the imperfections of her mate to others
- A lady turns off her cell phone at an event or dinner out
- A lady uses her turn signals when driving
- A lady does not wear clothes so revealing they embarrass others
- A lady does not wear linen before Easter nor after Labor Day
- A lady does not brag, whine, nag, or gossip
This is mostly common sense and common courtesy. Basic manners are essential not only in order to be respected and taken seriously, but for the purpose of our witness. We not only represent ourselves and our families, but also Jesus Christ. Some Christian girls believe learning to be a lady is a waste of time. To the contrary, it is one of the best investments of time you’ll ever make! Whether or not you wear linen after Labor Day, the essence of being a lady is an others-oriented mindset. A lady is both regimented and flexible; compassionate and strong. A lady reaches out to others by disciplining herself.
It’s not just manners and a classy appearance that matters. If anything, a lady is known more by how she carries herself physically and socially than by anything else. Good physical carriage, such as good posture, makes any woman look more together and healthy than the one who slouches. A woman should know how to walk well, whether in heels or flats, sit decently in pants or a skirt, and should learn the power of a simple smile.
Social carriage refers to the words we say, how we say them, the people we associate with, and the art of common courtesy. If we honk at other cars while driving, gossip at parties, or are loud and impatient with grating voices and opinions, we have lost the beauty of feminine grace and poise.
Let’s look at an example of what a lady is not. In the book for novelists, Writer’s Guide to Character Traits, is listed a description of ‘The Flamboyant,” a personality authors can use as a character in their novels. Look how she is described:
- Dramatic, easily upset and emotionally unstable
- Indirect and devious
- Naïve and simplistic, immature, and childish
- Not a clear thinker
- Attention seeker; appears phony
- Seems flaky and flighty
- Competitive with other women
- Exhibitionistic, dramatic in social situations
- Vain, promiscuous and jealous
That does not sound like biblical womanhood to me. Does this description ring any bells? Read Proverbs 5. The adulteress is “The Flamboyant!” A lady is polar opposite of the Proverbs 5 woman; in fact, a lady is the Proverbs 31 woman. The more we look at the character of a lady, we see the connection to biblical values and lifestyle. All good comes from God (Jas. 1:17); therefore, all good traits of character, manners, and social activity must be based on His design.
Cultural ladylikeness is founded on deference of others above all else, which brings out good manners and social behavior. A lady is graceful because she is first gracious; she has poise because she is patient. Being a lady proceeds from being a woman after God’s own heart. God is a God of order (1 Cor. 14:33) and he blesses those who pursue it in their own lives. Ladies make a priority of orderliness because they know discipline and organization will always benefit in the long run.
So here’s our challenge, ladies (and I believe you are!): let’s discipline ourselves to be classy women in every area: physically, socially, mentally, and spiritually. And when we need to be reminded how to be a lady, just remember that class is timeless, chic is fleeting, and a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised! (Prov. 31:30)