I wish my sons to be gentlemen. Siting in a chair, a warm fire glowing and two boys playing in matching pajamas gives is a moment you treasure it in your heart. I handed a treat to my youngest. He looked up with a bright smile and said: “Thank you, daddy.” I hope both my boys grow up to be themselves while also exhibiting grace, class and politeness.
Oxford American Dictionary defines civility as: formal politeness and courtesy in behavior and speech.
Nobility of the past
Too often we view the ignoble aspect of person, time or movement to discredit what was noble. Missing an ideal doesn’t lessen its nobility. Should the Wright brothers have not flown at Kitty Hawk when those before them failed? Discourse and conduct did have a higher air of civility in times past, though I’m sure the past wasn’t perfect.
Acting with grace
Civility develops a focus on others. I remember in high school this kind of conversation: The girl said “You opened that for me just because I’m a woman, didn’t you?” to which the man replied, “No, I opened it because I’m a gentleman.” Civility isn’t sexism one way or the other. It is the polite thing to do. Allowing someone to do something you can clearly do yourself isn’t a violation of equality. It is an act of graciousness and a demonstration of deference. Imagine holiday shopping with this attitude.
Formality is a language. As society let go of formality it also let go of a language that prevents potential misunderstanding and clear acts of acknowledgment. Another loss is an understanding between public and private behavior. Manners, etiquette and politeness are a key aspects to equality. It is a language of interaction, understanding and wisdom. A return to formality would greatly benefit romance, political discourse, and everyday life. Formality can disagree without destroying a person. It can romance to a greater depth. The language of formality understands that we are not islands unto ourselves. We live among others.
Formal as stodgy, informal as rude
Both formal and informal behavior contain drawbacks. Formality can be oppressive. It need not negate self-expression. While Formality is often labeled stodgy and informality rude; can we move beyond that? Perhaps the one who speaks quietly is heard the loudest, and within formal discourse one’s self-expression is most appreciated. Put another way: in reestablishing formality, let us not lose the zest of life.
The bottom line:
I hope my boys grow up to be classy and civil while not losing their zest for life or animated personalities. In disagreement may they still be considered gracious, in opposition still known as noble. I hope my boys show charm both publicly and in private. I hope those close to my boys would see my them as treating everyone with respect. I hope they can be true to themselves in both civil and private discourse for in so doing they’ll demonstrate dignity and wisdom.