Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How to Act With Dignity

    I have four sons that I really want to raise to be genteel men--gentlemen. After some unfortunate choices on the parts of a couple of my children awhile back (an incident involving a dead snake and terrorizing some of the neighbors being one) I determined to set about teaching them how to be dignified sooner rather than later. I have great kids, but growing up can be hard. Being an adolescent and teenager can be especially tough. I want my kids to feel equipped to deal with life's awkwardnesses in a positive way. I thought a good place to start would be to create a list of ways to act with dignity. My plan is to conduct a family meeting next week to give an overview of these standards for my boys to start processing and then to address each bullet point individually in a series of mini-lessons (we're talking five minutes or less) as a part of our weekly family nights over the next several months.

    I've been thinking about this virtue for a long time, ever since having an excellent conversation about dignity with my sister about a year ago (which was sparked by a toilet paper commercial). It seems that our society's dignity began a slow decline some time ago--I'm not exactly sure when, but I suspect it began around the same time as the advent of Preparation H commercials and the like back in the 60's. At the rate we're going our dignity is headed the same place that aforementioned toilet paper went.

    I want my life and my children's lives to be elevated by the beautiful, the refined and the good that we see in the world. I want them to be able to face whatever difficulties which come their way with aplomb. The world is constantly pulling our attention away from the things that will strengthen our spirits and pulling it toward scandal, ugliness, gossip and other indignities. I want to teach my children how to refocus on what matters.

    I've lived long enough to know that life isn't perfect, and I don't think it's always the best thing to go about looking at it through rose colored glasses, but we also don't need to dwell on or call attention to the baser parts of life more than what is necessary for us to focus on in order to help and lift others.

    I love this quote from Julie B. Beck. It centers on women, but I think it can be applied  to men as well:

    The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.”

    I saw this "Rules to Always Being a Gentleman" print on Pinterest awhile back and re-pinned it for future reference. The funny thing is I think I read through it once back when I pinned it (nearly a year ago) then kind of forgot about it, but after I made my list I remembered it and went back to look at it for further inspiration and found that many of the things I came up with were very similar. I guess they are just common sense. And truth is eternal.

    So without further ado, my twenty basic guidelines for "How to Act with Dignity":
    • Stand up for what you believe--Stick by your values; be a leader not a follower. If your friends jumped off a bridge would you? Are there bungee cords involved? Maybe. The point is act with integrity and don't let the masses sway you to go along with something you know isn't right.
    • Cultivate a love of learning; Value education--Be able to make intelligent conversation. Be a life-long learner. Watch Jeopardy!
    • Mind your manners--Etiquette. Napkin on your lap; feet off the table.
    • Maintain high standards for dress and grooming--Brush your suits (or have your valet do it for you), make sure your clothes are clean and pressed, shine your shoes. Wash regularly. Brush your teeth.
    • Appreciate literature, art and music--"The nearer we get to God, the more easily our spirits are touched by refined and beautiful things." ~Douglas L. Callister.
    • Make (and maintain) eye contact--Look at people when you are talking with them. Give them your undivided attention. It's common courtesy and it shows you value them. It allows them to be dignified as well.
    • Smile and offer a firm handshake--Be friendly. And none of this dead-fish handshake business. Seriously.
    • Don't say anything to a girl that you wouldn't say to your mother--If you wouldn't say it to your dear old mother, don't say it to anyone else. Just don't.
    • Be honest--With yourself and others. If you make a mistake correct it as quickly as possible. The words "I'm sorry", "I was mistaken" and "I misspoke" will go a long way towards helping maintain dignity.
    • Be humble--Be teachable. Right your wrongs. Always try to be better today than you were yesterday.
    •  Be civil--Learn to discuss religion, politics, and other subjects without resorting to name calling or insulting another's intelligence. It's okay if you don't agree with others. Really. But it's not okay to fight, insult, call names or be generally nasty. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
    •  Be slow to anger--Control your temper.
    •  Stand up straight, shoulders back, chin up--Dignified people project self-confidence.
    • Remember who you are--You are a child of God; a prince or princess. Act accordingly.
    • Don't be a clown--A good sense of humor is wonderful when used in the proper place and time. Silliness is annoying. Buffoonery is embarrassing. 
    • Think of others before yourself--Forget yourself. Put others at ease. Offer your seat. Open a door. Pay a sincere compliment.
    •  Practice good sportsmanship--No one likes a sore loser and no dignified athlete ever threw their tennis racket or stormed off the court in a huff.
    • Strive for a positive attitude--Don't complain. Whining isn't dignified.
    • Watch your thoughts, words and deeds--Clean thoughts, clean words, clean actions. Your language reflects who you are and what you value. Make your words soft and sweet. You may have to eat them some day.
    • Be in control of your emotions--Learn to express feelings without gloating, crying, yelling, etc. Use your words.
    8"x10" printable subway art: "How to Act with Dignity". You can download it HERE.

    I'm planning to print this out and hang it somewhere in our home where my boys may be reminded often of the importance of living a dignified life. Maybe you are as tired of subway art as you are of "Keep Calm" posters and those wood signs that say "live, laugh, love" but you can print it out too if you want.Download it HERE (sans photo corners).

    Here's to raising our sons (and daughters) to be examples of effortless dignity.


    Amy M said...

    I love your subway art. And your wisdom. How do you feel about arranged marriage?? :)

    Amy Gehen said...

    I am pinning this and putting your subway art in my boys' room when we put them together in the fall. Never too early to start, right? :)

    Tanya H said...

    FHE and dinner discussions coming right up!! I. LOVE. This!!!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts- you nailed it! :)

    Shannon Richards said...

    Well said, Jill! I have been thinking a lot about this lately too, as I've seen my kids act a bit appallingly in various social situations. I thought they knew how to act appropriately, but I was surprised to see they were choosing not to. I think I'll be printing your words of advice and using them for my own FHE lessons. Thanks!

    Anne said...

    Thank you for your post, it was very useful for my son's RE homework. I didn't know where to start.