Not so long ago people understood the notion of respectability. A respectable person acted certain ways. They didn’t do undignified, disgraceful things. They weren’t vulgar in their comments. Respectable folks were courteous and polite. And they did all these things irrespective of their financial condition or social standing. The “rules” for respectable conduct were common to all.
Now, some of the bygone rules of respectability would be seen by many today as unnecessary, odd, or even offensive. Times were, for example, when a “respectable” woman would wear gloves and a hat or some other hair covering in church. She would not use profanity and wait to allow a gentleman to open doors for her. And a respectable man would tip his hat to a woman as she past him on the street and take it off when he went inside a building. And he certainly wouldn’t use certain language in “mixed company.” Dignified, respect-worthy folks knew these rules and willingly abided by them.
Times have certainly changed. Our social mores and customs have loosened up considerably. And as a result, folks are not as repressed as they once were. And that’s a good thing in many ways. People have less unreasonable guilt and shame about relatively inconsequential things. In other words, people have become much less “neurotic.” But we’ve also paid a price for the “whatever feels right for you” relativism that’s replaced older respectability norms. These days, we don’t have as clear a sense of decency and civility as we once had.
Not everything was better in “the good old days.” In fact, some things were pretty bad although we unfortunately pretended otherwise. But we may have thrown the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. We still need standards of decency and respectability. And because of the huge number of problems we face, we need civility in our discourse more than ever. That’s what the 9th “commandment” I’ve been posting on is all about. To be of good character, you have to commit yourself to civil conduct.
The Year Ahead
2017 will see many many great challenges. Whether we recognize it or not, the world is at war. And it’s at war on many fronts. We have so many problems to solve, it’s hard for some to know exactly where to start. But that’s where all the “commandments” I’ve been talking about come in. If we’re going to make it, we must certainly change the world. But to do that effectively we must start with ourselves. We have it with in use to behave respectably. And doing so makes us worthy of respect.
This year I’ll be winding down my professional training and heading toward semi-retirement. And after my next book comes out, I’ll be devoting most of my “free” time to some active peacemaking. I’ll be networking with many like-minded individuals in this effort. And to help ensure I do well in the task, I’ll be doing a lot of self-examination and reflection.
You’ll be seeing some site improvements over the next few weeks. There may be momentary interruptions in service.
Changes are being made to the Cross Country Education site, also. (Now, Vyne Education.) It’s not as easy to see my workshop calendar there, so I’ll keep updating the seminars page.
Character Matters will not be live New Year’s Day evening.
Read more about the “commandments” of character in my book Character Disturbance.
Look for my new book with Dr. Kathy Armistead this coming spring.