I strive to teach my kids civility and decorum. There is an expectation of a certain gravitas when in public. Manners are important. It is good to be polite and kind to those around you. Even if it is a stranger that person is worthy of dignity. Every person is a human being with feelings and opinions and value.
Respect is essential. Both my wife and I were raised in homes where one respected their elders and those in authority. This same mentality we have instilled in our kids. You refer to an adult as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” Even if there are qualities you do not admire in a person, you keep those opinions to yourself unless a moral issue is at stake. It is a joy to see these qualities take root in them.
We have had numerous conversations in our home about appropriate language. One of the reasons we discourage profanity is that it makes a person look less intelligent. Choose words that reflect your education. Furthermore, do not attack a person’s character but rather interact honestly and even disagreeably with their ideas. We want them to display leadership – qualities to which others will aspire. that others will aspire to.
Sadly, these qualities have been absent from the presidential candidates. I have been watching the political process with great interest this year. The proposals are diverse. The candidates are galvanizing. I am very curious as to how this is going to shake down in a few months. Eager to hear some substantive dialogue I turned into the Republican Debate on Saturday night. Based on previous debates my expectations were not sky high as I figured there would be some fireworks. However, I was disgusted at the juvenile discourse on display. I could only stomach about 20 minutes of the debate. I decided to watch some mind-numbing program rather than continue to grow frustrated at what was on display by our “national leaders.” I told my daughter that it was something I would expect from a 4th grade class (well probably not even that). Interruptions. Insults. Screaming. The word “loser” was used dozens of times. Character assaults were common. I would not have been surprised to see someone throw a tantrum and go storming off the stage. Sadly, the audience was no better as it seemed they were encouraging this deplorable behavior. I don’t even think this behavior would be tolerated in kindergarten.
Wow. One of these individuals could very well be our next president. I might have been looking at someone who would represent the United States around the world. These are the individuals that I am supposed to say to my children, “This is true leadership. This is how you conduct yourself in public.” My daughter loves to debate. I would love to be able to watch the interactions and discuss how engaging, thoughtful, and informed the responses were. Rather, I am showing her clips as to what not to do. Sad. Tragic.
Where are the leaders that we can look up to? Unfortunately, this void of true leadership is not simply reserved for politics. Whether it is athletes or famous musicians, it seems one has to look pretty hard to find a leader that shines with integrity, self-sacrifice, and restraint. Scripture encourages leaders to be people of respect – individuals that model character and godliness in our communities. Perhaps, there is an opportunity for the church to shine with true leadership in the absent of it in the world.