On Civility

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

James 1:19

Sometime before George Washington turned 16 he wrote a little booklet/pamphlet entitled: “George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.” I think it needs a reprint. We have become an uncivil society. And just for the record civility means, according to dictionary.com: courtesy; politeness; a polite action or expression.  Our society as a whole is either struggling to be polite, or has abandoned being polite altogether.  It is hard to watch on the news the many ways we are impolite, it is harder to see in person.

I find it ironic then that the man who would become our first president, would even before he was a man, write about civility…these are literally 110 bullet points that are filled with how we should act toward one another.  So the very first one says: “Every action done in company, ought to be with some sign of respect, to those that are present.” In other words when we are not alone and there are others around us, how we act and speak should be respectful to everyone who is there.  I love the 5th one….”If you cough, sneeze, sigh, or yawn, do it not loud but privately; and speak not in your yawning, but put your handkerchief or hand before your face and turn aside.” Translation for today: “wear a mask.”

We live in a unique time in history.  It is scary. It is filled with unknowns which are scary.  It is filled with changes we didn’t ask for, which is scary. And did I mention it is scary? Not knowing what tomorrow will bring based on what the virus numbers are doing is stressful.  For some people they are living with underlying conditions that can make contracting the virus a lethal diagnoses.  For others who are taking care of people who are elderly or have those underlying conditions, we do not want to be the reason our loved ones caught the virus. Standing behind the Bill of Rights or our Constitution when you are asked to wear a mask is selfish as the only person you are considering in your “right” to not wear a mask is yourself.  It doesn’t matter if you believe the virus is real or not…trust me it is.

And while we do have rights, I am not negating those. What we don’t have is the right to be uncivilized. So yelling at someone who is asking you to wear a mask is not ok.  Coughing on someone who has asked you to wear a mask is rude. And don’t even get me started about people who spit!

Is wearing a mask fun? NO! I don’t like any more than anyone else.  They are hot.  They are uncomfortable. Since I wear glasses, my glasses fog up every time I breathe. They are hard to speak through. They are all that and more. But if they protect me even 30% from catching the Covid-19 virus and that keeps me from passing it on to another person, then I will wear one when I am out and about in public.  For full disclosure, I will share that when I go for my walk in the morning and in the evening, I do not wear them.  But then, I am not around other people either.

Being civil towards one another of course is more than just wearing a mask in this particular time as we live under the threat of a pandemic.  It is also how we should live.  Being courteous toward one another takes less effort than having to reconcile with someone we have hurt because we have been rude or worse.  It is a lot easier to be civil than it is to get out of jail because of bad behavior.  It is a lot easier to be nice than dealing with the repercussions of being mean.

And then there is just the simple fact that being civil, or being nice or courteous to one another is the right thing to do. In doing so we are following the example laid out by Jesus as he lived in and among the people teaching and preaching about a better way.  Part of that better way is civility.

George Washington who was one of our founding fathers and our first president of the newly formed country called America, wrote that every action we do should be done with respect to the people around us…James said we should be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry…but then I believe, if we truly listened to one another with the intent to understand one another, maybe we wouldn’t have such a hard time being courteous to one another.



There are 110 rules in George Washington’s pamphlet he wrote sometime prior to his 16th year.  They are rules that are still good advice for us today. Although some are outdated.  If you would like to read them, you can find them here:  https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1248919#:~:text=George%20Washington%27s%20Rules%20of%20Civility%201%20Every%20action,with%20your%20fingers%20or%20feet.%20More%20items…%20


Leave a comment

Filed under Faith, Freedom, Life insights, Misc..., Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s