Virtue At GQ: The Heart of ‘Look Sharp, Live Smart’
Religion & Liberty Online

Virtue At GQ: The Heart of ‘Look Sharp, Live Smart’

logogqOne of the most popular blog posts at Gentlemen’s Quarterly Magazine (GQ) in 2013 was a commentary giving men 10 reasons to stop viewing pornography. On GQ’s website the piece registered 24,000 thousand “like” on Facebook in just a few weeks. The popularity of the post could be a signal that Americans really are interested in discussing moral issues and perhaps GQ should take advantage of this opportunity to include more posts that offer moral direction even if some might ultimately disagree.

GQ is at least aware that the virtues that make a man emanate from his heart and not simply his wardrobe, to a certain degree, hence magazine’s motto, “Look Sharp, Live Smart.” Sadly, over the past 2 or 3 generations in America an emphasis on character has lost its role as the chief element of style. You can be a man of impeccable dress, taste, and flare and sabotage it all with unsavory character. In modern America, the symbiotic relationship between style and virtue is too easily poisoned by the cultural production of narcissism and moral relativism.

In fact, when we look back at the men many Americans admire the most — like Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill — what we remember most are the applications of their virtues and values. From Plato and Aristotle to Augustine and Aquinas, the West prides itself on the promotion of what is known as the “cardinal virtues” — prudence, justice, courage, and temperance. These four virtues are the ancient elements of style that guided men for centuries in the art looking “sharp” and living “smart.”

A prudent man is one whose life is devoted to the pursuit of wisdom. He is primarily concerned that his day-to-day actions pursue all that is good, no matter what. A just man commits himself to treating people with dignity and respect in order to give others what they are rightly due. A man of courage is consistent in his fight for what is good and true even though he will likely suffer for it. Finally, a temperate man is one who knows how to moderate his passions, has control over his appetites, and does nothing in excess. To these virtues we could also add humility because living smart means knowing your limits, being able to admit when you are wrong, and not thinking of yourself more highly than you ought.

What does this look like? A virtuous man, for example, refuses to prey on weak-willed, broken women to satisfy his end-of-the-week sensual desires. He passes over promotions at work if it means fudging the numbers in order to impress his boss. He refuses to misrepresent data to his clients even if it means not closing the deal. His family, friends, and co-workers praise him because he excels in character.

Our world is groaning for virtuous men. Men who reject empty lifestyles characterized by greed, apathy, pride, envy, and gluttony for a life in pursuit of the virtues that our make relationships, families, businesses, schools, and communities extraordinary.

Virtuous men are the ones we remember. They inspire us. These are men we want our sons to become and the ones we want our daughters to marry. GQ certainly has an opportunity in 2014 to do something that no other popular magazine seems willing to do by regularly promoting the characteristics that make gentlemen virtuously “smart.”

Anthony Bradley

Anthony Bradley, Ph.D. is Professor of Religious Studies at The King's College in New York City and serves as a Research Fellow at the Acton Institute. Dr. Bradley lectures at colleges, universities, business organizations, conferences, and churches throughout the U.S. and abroad. His books include: Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America (2010),  Black and Tired: Essays on Race, Politics, Culture, and International Development (2011),  The Political Economy of Liberation: Thomas Sowell and James Cone of the Black Experience (2012), Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation (2012), Aliens in the Promised Land:  Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions (forthcoming, 2013). Dr. Bradley's writings on religious and cultural issues have been published in a variety of journals, including: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Detroit News, and World Magazine. Dr. Bradley is called upon by members of the broadcast media for comment on current issues and has appeared C-SPAN, NPR, CNN/Headline News, and Fox News, among others. He studies and writes on issues of race in America, hip hop, youth culture, issues among African Americans, the American family, welfare, education, and modern slavery. From 2005-2009, Dr. Bradley was Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO where he also directed the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute.   Dr. Bradley holds Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Clemson University, a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.  Dr. Bradley also holds an M.A. in Ethics and Society at Fordham University.