Calls to Kindness…
In this time of political wrangling, manipulation, and hyperbole, we have gotten use to attitudes and a demeanor that detract from allowing civility to facilitate the kind of change and resulting harmony that at the end of the day, we would prefer to live in.
Here are some of The Rules of Civility George Washington saw as important, even in highly charged situations.
- “Show Nothing to your Friend that might affright him.”
Commentary: Fright or shock of this nature has its place in the spectrum of communication. “Shock value” can have its place in marketing or stopping a transaction, or moving it in a new direction. But, it has no place in civility, especially with those who you are either friends or want to cultivate as such. Whereas civility is a process of smoothing a continuum of communication, shock or fright is disruptive and will, in fact, create greater uncertainty in the transactions that may follow.
- “Shake not the head, or Legs, Roll not the Eyes, Lift not one eyebrow higher than the other, Wry not the mouth, and Bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by approaching too near when you Speak.”
Commentary: With the exception to spitting on someone (unless it is intended!), all the other mannerisms described usually show or convey a judgment on what is being conveyed in a transaction and these judgments are usually negative or come with a conflicting emotion. Yet, these responses are usually habitual and/or reflexive. One does not go out of one’s way to display such. Thus, one could say that young George was taking a lesson from British aristocracy in being trained and/or disciplined to keep a “stiff upper lip” and all of the repressive mannerisms of British high society. Displaying a “poker face” or one that does not display any of the mannerisms above is useful in many social and political environs. However in the extreme and as an expected norm, they can also be detrimental to sound mental health, both for the person inhibiting and those before them who remain more in the dark as to what one may be thinking.
In modern times, with the increased use of Botox to eliminate wrinkles, it has been noted that many reflexive facial responses are being overly inhibited via this toxin. The result is that people looking at the botoxed face are flummoxed by what they can and cannot see. And, as a result the person with the botoxed face cannot read the other person’s response either. Thus, the ability to judge what is going on in the mind and emotions of another is said to be impaired by about fifty present; an actual decrease in emotional intelligence.
As regards unintended spittle, especially in most civil discourse, respecting another individual’s personal space will usually ensure that such “bedewing” is less likely.
- “Show not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another, though he were your enemy.”
Commentary: If we truly believe that we are all basically good and that we are all doing the best based on what we know, we must understand that as misguided as we may think others are in what they say and do, they think the same as us. This is the predicament of conditioned existence. And in whatever conflict we face, whether it is a personal conflict or an all-out conflagration consuming continent, to rejoice in the pain and suffering of others shows a shallow understanding of humanity and life in general.
In the tradition of honorable warfare, the Ven. Chogyam Trungpa said that on the battlefield, after striking down a foe, a noble soldier would sit with his defeated adversary and pray with him, as he would drift into death.
Thus civility holds no quarter for those who seek revenge or take pleasure in the demise of others. Such an attitude can only diminish us as individuals and in the end, leave us prey to the same. As the Welsh saying goes, “:If you plan revenge, dig two graves.”
- “When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly pleased, but always show Pity to the Suffering Offender.”
Commentary: Following on from Rule 22, by “inwardly pleased,” it would seem in the spirit of what is said that this does not mean to be happy. When justice is served, when a punishment fits the crime, we acknowledge that that which was done will hopefully serve two criteria. First, that such was done for a greater good and second, that the punishment is instructive, informative, and met out with a recognition of our shared human birthright. And if it be that the punishment is punitive in nature even to the point of death, that such acts are performed with a forgiving heart and sense of remorse for the need to act thus.
To hear more perspectives based on these Rules, watch this podcast…