Amidst bitter winter temps in much of the nation, I see many people suggesting curling up with a good book. George Washington’s “Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation” is probably not what they were thinking 🙂 Even so, we began a book study discussing a few of the rules young George Washington, who later became our first president, believed to be essential for a successful life. Last week, we learned that Washington was all of 14 yrs. old when he decided that being diligent in social manners was a skill that he would need for a successful life.
Today, we pick up on a few of his first rules. It’s easy to see that Washington believed in governing oneself before trying to govern others. Rules 1-10 are about self-discipline. His first rule was “Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.” In other words, no narcissism, grandstanding, upstaging, or purposely calling attention to oneself. Think about our society today and the importance our young people have placed on being noticed or famous. I imagine something like Washington held up a mental “yield the right of way” sign to himself, foregoing the limelight.
Rule #3 was “Show nothing to your friend that may affright him.” Think of how many frightening images we see in a given day via any kind of media. Washington saw a lot of war in his life. I find it interesting that he didn’t think it necessary to engage in sensationalism with friends. You know, like re-posting images on social media that may be best left unseen, especially if they’ve been everywhere. It takes self-control not to publish attention-grabbing things. While we want to be informed, I’m thinking Americans can do better in this area.
Here are a couple of rules that might make you smile… Rule #4 is “In the presence of others sing not to yourself with a humming noise, nor drum with your fingers and feet.” Americans who work in cubicles, Washington could relate. LOL Or how about Rule #6 “Sleep not when others speak, sit not when others stand, speak not when you should hold your peace, walk not on when others stop.” Uh oh. Raise your hand if you, like me, have spoken when you should have held your peace or fallen asleep during a lecture. Anyone?? Maybe you kept walking when your toddler wanted to stop and smell the roses, saying “Hurry up!” If that isn’t enough, Washington believed in keeping both feet flat on the floor. I am always crossing my ankles, legs fingers, etc. You get the idea! LOL
What does this all have to do with Common Sense Civics and Citizenship? Taking stock of ourselves in the area of citizenship is good. Civility is a part of citizenship that gets ignored these days. Common Sense Civics and Citizenship doesn’t ignore civility. It practices it.