Civility and courtesy, the outward expressions of human decency, are the proverbial glue that holds society together- qualities that are more important than ever in today’s complex and changing world. Emily Post’s Etiquette, 19th Edition
I have been so disheartened by the lack of civility we are witnessing from the Oval Office these days. What kind of message do these standards of personal conduct send to our young people? This is not a political blog. This is not a post about policy. This is about averting the behavioral crisis that would ensue if our children were to adopt the standard of personal conduct embraced by the leader of the country. Most of us were taught the importance of civility and courtesy early in our lives. These social norms were ingrained in us by our parents and our teachers. We passed them on to our children, and they will teach them to their children. We call it “good home training”.
In elementary school, I remember getting citizenship grades on my report cards. According to the editors of the Weekly Reader, the five good citizenship themes taught to students K-6 include ” honesty, compassion, respect, responsibility, and courage”. (Does anyone remember the Weekly Reader? Weekly Reader was a weekly educational classroom magazine designed for children. It began in 1928 and ceased publication in 2012.)
The “magic words” we were taught as children including “I’m sorry” are just as important for adults. We were taught that giving apologies gracefully is an act of courtesy and maturity. How we handle our mistakes or misunderstandings speaks volumes. Our parents also taught us never to stare or make jokes or cruel comments about someone with a disability. Most of us have taught our children to embrace diversity, understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These differences can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.
According to Emily Post’s Etiquette, 19th Edition, the fundamental principles of etiquette are timeless and everlasting: consideration, respect and honesty.
Consideration. Consideration is being aware of and understanding how a situation affects everyone involved. The key to consideration is thoughtful behavior, which leads to actions that will affect others in a positive way.
Respect. Respect builds on consideration by valuing the individuals involved, regardless of their background, race, or creed. Respect is demonstrated by actions, appearance, and words that honor and value others.
Honesty. Honesty is acting sincerely and being truthful. Honesty compels us to choose to act sincerely and with integrity in ways that honor and respect others. It’s a basis of tact. Honesty allows us to apply empathy to find the positive truth and act upon it, without causing embarrassment or pain.
The current holder of the highest office in the land doesn’t appear to think these civilities and courtesies apply to him. We need to be vigilant in making sure young people are getting heavy doses of “good home training” in this environment where conflicting messages are being sent almost daily. Our children our watching!
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