We are cruising our way through a book study of George Washington’s “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” (Applewood Books, 1988). Congrats if you made it this far! Welcome to any newcomers who may be joining us for the first time. We are learning about the rules of life that George Washington adopted for himself at the young age of fourteen. He has a lot to teach us in this day and age where uncivil behavior has almost become a “given.” Let’s dive right in!
Rule #40 says, “Strive not with your superiors in argument, but always submit your judgment to others with modesty.” The question I ask you (and me) is this: Are we teachable people? If the boss corrects us or asks us to do something over, do we think it is not his/her place to do so? In life, we may not like what authority tells us. We possibly know more than they do. George Washington had a point here-don’t argue. Give your response gently and succinctly. Then go about the business of learning from it… and, if warranted, quietly seek a better employment opportunity somewhere else. That is what one of my friends is doing. She is seeking a better opportunity, albeit with lower pay, but with better leadership at the top.
Rule #45 looks at this issue from the other side- when you or I are doing the correcting, “Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in public or private, presently or at some other time, in what terms to do it; and in reproving, show no signs of cholera, but do it with all sweetness and mildness.” Translation: If we are the ones in charge, we ought not to haul off and say whatever in front of whomever, whenever we feel like. Instead, consider how to make the correction using our best decorum. Humiliating people never wins hearts and minds. Has anger has never helped us raise the bar and reach a higher level with those whom we lead? Eventually, such tactics are exposed. Authority carries with it a giant weight of responsibility. Holding one’s temper is one of those responsibilities.
Young George wraps up this section by continuing to remind himself of proper decorum with humility. Rule #48: “Wherein you reprove another be unblameable yourself, for example, is more prevalent than precepts.” We are all leading someone. People watch our lives. What did mom say? Remember? “Actions speak louder than words.” That’s mom’s way of saying “Example is more prevalent than precepts.” I got to thinking that a mother’s wise words speak volumes, but it is our own actions that build the library of our lives. Actions are how people remember us. They are our true epitaph when our time on earth is completed. The good news is that the library of our lives adds new books with each passing day. We can always add new volumes to it! That’s a reassuring thought!