President and Brother George Washing was born on February 22, 1732. His home in Mt. Vernon, Virginia, is a testament to his leadership in both our Country and in our personal lives.

When George was 16 years of age, he was given a writing exercise, and he wrote his 101 Rules of Civility. Here are a few and are presented in the language and phraseology of the era:

  • Every action done in Company ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to
    those that are Present
  • Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy…,And in all Causes of
    Passion, admit Reason to Govern.
  • Shew Nothing to your Friend that may affright him.
  • Reprehend not the imperfections of others…
  • Never express anything unbecoming…
  • Associate yourself with Men of good Quality, … for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad Company.

Today, many, if not all of these rules sound a little fussy, if not downright silly. It would be easy to dismiss them as outdated, and appropriate to a time of powdered wigs and quills. But they reflect a focus that is increasingly difficult to find.

Fussy or not, they represent more than just good manners. They are the small sacrifices that we should all be willing to make for the good of all, and for the sake of living together.

Civility in our daily lives is not just something that is nice to do. Civility is politeness and courtesies in our behavior and our speech.

By civil behavior, we learn to disagree without being disagreeable. Civility is the hard work of staying pleasant, even with those with whom we have profound and de-rooted disagreements.

As Masons, we obligate ourselves in our three degrees to good manners and fair dealing with our Brother Masons in the Lodge. But these generous principles extend further, and are to be applied outside the Lodge as well.

Excerpted from The Short Talk Bulletin Vol. 93 No. 6