Cicero famously said, “A man’s own manner and character is what most becomes him.” Our character is what shapes our reputation. Our manners are what uphold our character. Manners are not about us. They are about others. How we treat others will determine how we are treated in return. When we act with deference toward others and treat people with graciousness, civility and respect, we edify society and the role we each play in its course. The higher we place the importance of civility and respect, the more it becomes a staple of our society and culture.
The rules of civility are universal. No matter your education, your religion or your heritage, we all share a common role in the advancement of our culture. The very least of our actions toward others speaks volumes about us. The power behind such small words or good deeds is what causes others to recognize the greater good for which we aim. We each share responsibility to set the right example. How do we do so? It starts with respect. These are what I call “Life’s little rules for living”. They are the foundation upon which we can frame a better world for all.
The first little rule is, “Never read something intended for someone else’s eyes.” It is important to honor and respect the privacy and communications of others. Doing so halts any misunderstanding or insult. Little rule number two is, “Never listen in on a conversation not intended for your ears.” This serves to guarantee that we will not find ourselves the victim of offense. We have no business being offended by something not intended for us. Rule number three says, “Never repeat anything told to you in confidence.” We’ve all had experiences when we’ve shared something in confidence with someone, only to find out that person broke the confidence and repeated our words. There would be no hurt feelings and surely no argument among anyone if we all kept private discussions to ourselves.
“Never spread rumor about anyone else”, is rule number four. This is probably the hardest rule because humans have the overwhelming urge to sensationalize things in life. This may put the Enquirer or TMZ out of business, but it would serve to protect everyone’s private lives- starting with our own. And if you do promise to keep what is said in confidence, this serves to uphold little rule number five which states, “Never fail to be of your word.” You may have a perfect credit score, but if your word is worthless, you will suffer a loss of respect and credibility among your peers.
We all have an opinion. Our opinions are shaped by our life’s experiences. No two people have had exact experiences and no two opinions are alike. That is what makes life rich and exciting. We each have so much to offer and learn from one another. Far too often, we use our opinions to shield ourselves from other viewpoints. We sometimes criticize other opinions without regard for a person’s feelings. This leads to rule number five, “Never criticize another’s opinion”. We are free to disagree, but to criticize someone because they think differently is disrespectful.
Politeness is like a flower rich in beauty and color. Respect for others is one of the best ways to demonstrate our civility. This leads to my last and final little rule for living, “Always be mindful to mind your own business.” How we would wish to be treated is how we should treat others. That is a timeless principle which never dies.