As we close in on the end of a tumultuous political year, I thought it appropriate to review George Washington's "Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation". Is it just me, or does it seem to you that many of our federal politicians - our "Leaders" - have no understanding of the words "civility" and "decent behavior"? It's either that or that they choose to be boorish. Many of them have no shame. They tell us outright lies and actually expect that if they tell us whoppers long enough and loud enough, we'll believe them. Sadly, many do. Sadder yet is the fact that we put these people in office.
What would the great General, a great leader - our first President - a Man among men - think of the cast of characters now ensconced in the city called by his name? Most of Washington's biographers have regarded these 100 Rules as formative influences in the early development of his character. Oh that such men, such leaders, were still being formed in this country today! Their country needs them very much. We need to build our lives upon the solid foundation of good character and morals, not just on gifts and abilities. Thank God there exist such folk and institutions who still hold truth dear and are striving to produce leaders like Washington today. We pray for their success.
Consider each maxim applicable to the 21st century, and think on the people you elected (or allowed to be elected) to represent you, and ask yourself, does their behavior indicate their agreement or disagreement? What does that say about their character?
Here we are fortunate to glimpse a portion of Washington's studies at about age sixteen - about 265 years ago. I plan on implementing as many of these maxims as are appropriate for the present time and I invite you to do the same. We'll leave the language, spelling and punctuation as Washington recorded it. Off we go then with the first 20:
1st Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.
2d When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usualy Discovered.
3d Shew Nothing to your Frend that may affright him.
4th In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.
5th If You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkercheif or Hand before your face and turn aside.
6th Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.
7th Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Drest.
8th At Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Commer, and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.
9th Spit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it.
10th When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Crossing them.
11th Shift not yourself in the Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails.
12th Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs rowl not the Eys lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by appr[oaching too nea]r him [when] you Speak.
13th Kill no Vermin as Fleas, lice ticks &c in the Sight of Others, if you See any filth or thick Spittle put your foot Dexteriously upon it if it be upon the Cloths of your Companions, Put it off privately, and if it be upon your own Cloths return Thanks to him who puts it off.
14th Turn not your Back to others especially in Speaking, Jog not the Table or Desk on which Another reads or writes, lean not upon any one.
15th Keep your Nails clean and Short, also your Hands and Teeth Clean yet without Shewing any great Concern for them.
16th Do not Puff up the Cheeks, Loll not out the tongue rub the Hands, or beard, thrust out the lips, or bite them or keep the Lips too open or too Close.
17th Be no Flatterer, neither Play with any that delights not to be Play'd Withal.
18th Read no Letters, Books, or Papers in Company but when there is a Necessity for the doing of it you must ask leave: come not near the Books or Writings of Another so as to read them unless desired or give your opinion of them unask'd also look not nigh when another is writing a Letter.
19th Let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.
20th The Gestures of the Body must be Suited to the discourse you are upon.
(Ferry Farm, c. 1744)
Expect a few more in my next post. I want to give enough time to really think these through.