By George he was on to something

By Joy Carrico | Published Saturday, February 10, 2018

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George Washington wrote out 110 Rules of Civility when he was a youth. The rules did not originate with him, he copied them. But, it is widely believed that he followed these rules. And if so, he must have been the world’s most composed person.

Many of the rules seem antiquated and irrelevant today. For example, there’s multiple instructions on what to do with one’s hat – when to put it on, when to take it off, etc. But many of the rules hold relevance.

Joy Carrico

Rule No. 1 – Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.

This is a very broad rule. It’s nice, but how, exactly does one make every action with some sign of respect for those that are present? I’m currently writing this in the newsroom. Four others are present. What action could I take while typing that would display respect for them? I might be taking this too literally. I can see where it basically means – don’t do things as if you are alone when others are around. For example, don’t watch a movie on your tablet, or play music, etc. without putting on your headphones. Consider that your behavior might bother others subjected to it.

Rule No. 5 – If you Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your hankercheif or Hand before your face and turn aside.

Amen, George. Especially to the yawning while speaking thing. I am guilty of this on occasion, but I find it so frustrating when people yawn while talking, mostly because I cannot understand them at all. Why bother to talk if you’re yawning? You’ll just have to repeat whatever you yawn-said anyway.

Rule No. 6 – Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.

Another nice one. Like Rule 1, it’s a little tough to keep up. And my ability to discern when I should hold my peace is generally discovered after the fact. But I find it to be a perfectly fine idea to pay attention to another’s actions and make allowance for it while interacting with them.

Rule No. 12. – Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs rowl not the Eys lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth …

In other words, keep your face neutral at all times. I’m with George on the eye-rolling prohibition, but no lifting one eyebrow higher than the other? I spent hours in the mirror when I was twelve training myself to do that because Spock was awesome. Sorry, George, you can’t have my Star Trek inspired eyebrow gestures. But the rule seems to discourage disdain, and that I can agree with.

Rule No. 16. – 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.

Here’s another of the make no facial expression rules. Washington must have been a mannequin of non-reaction.

Rule No. 18 – Read no Letters, Books, or Papers in Company but when there is a Necessity for the doing of it you must ask leave: …

This gets another amen from me. Especially when you substitute the word “smartphone” in the rule.

When with others, I try to keep my phone put away and not to consult it unless it seems pressing (if my phone is ringing multiple times in a row). If I want to pull it out, I will ask my companion if she/he minds before using it. If I’m looking up something we’re talking about, I’ll explain that that’s what I’m doing. I have no excuse for browsing while in the company of others.

Rule No. 22. – Shew not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were your enemy.

I don’t see people embracing this rule much, but it does make sense to me to take into account that another person is suffering before I start the next round of high-fives.

Rule No. 25 – Superfluous Complements and all Affectation of Ceremonie are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected.

Avoid excess pomp but don’t neglect necessary pomp? Okay. This doesn’t come up much in my circles. I’ll remember to curtsy if I ever meet the Queen, but I will refrain from curtsying to my editor. That should cover it.

Rule No. 38 – In visiting the Sick, do not Presently play the Physicion if you be not Knowing therein.

Yes, yes, yes. This is a great guideline. I’ve noticed that whenever some illness enters my world, everyone I know has an opinion about what I should do, who I should see, or their own experience with it.

Why do we all think our personal experiences are useful and desired when someone tells up something?

In addition to George’s rule, I would add, if someone tells you they’re going on a vacation to [insert destination], don’t then recount to them your own vacation to [same place] and tell them lovely little places they simply must visit unless they ask.

Rule No. 41 – Undertake not to Teach your equal in the art himself Proffesses; it Savours of arrogancy.

This is another really useful rule to keep in mind. Don’t tell someone how to do their business. I certainly don’t like it when someone who knows nothing about what I do tells me how I ought to do it. It does indeed “savour of arrogancy.”

Rule No. 50 – Be not hasty to believe flying Reports to the Disparag[e]ment of any.

George was obviously not on Facebook. How different would the world be if everyone paused after hearing something to ask, “Is that really true?”

Rule No. 69- If two contend together take not the part of either unconstrain[ed]; and be not obstinate in your own Opinion, in Things indiferent be of the Major Side.

I love the last sentence of this one. If it doesn’t matter to you, don’t bother to disagree. It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to have an opinion about everything.

There are so many I left out, but I am limited by space and time, so choices must be made. To quote rule 80: “Be not tedious in disclosure … unless you find the company pleased therewith.”

Should you want more, an internet search of “Washington’s Rules of Civilty” will easily provide the whole list.

I cannot close without providing the last of the rules.

Rule No. 110. – Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Ce[les]tial fire Called Conscience.

George really ends with a bang with this rule. This one is t-shirt slogan worthy, but it offers absolutely no practical information.

Joy Carrico is a Messenger graphic artist. She can be found fanning the flames of her conscience while making no facial expressions.

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