Republished © Stuart Wilde – Note from CJWild: This is a Stuart Wilde article so the views expressed in the text are not necessarily my own.
Politeness as a Spiritual Discipline
Watching some of the agro that goes down on the Stuart Wilde reader’s discussion page** is interesting – so much a reflection of the aggressive nastiness of our modern societies. When immature individuals become scared or frustrated, they lash out or blame others, projecting their shadow self, in order to release the uncomfortable feelings they harbour about themselves and their current conditions.
Back in the old days, when we did the Warrior’s in the Mist seminars in Sipapu, New Mexico, we had a nice habit of being very polite to each other. It was a discipline we all agreed to at the beginning of the week. We always referred to everyone as sir or ma’am when talking to them. Even good friends, talking amongst each other would refer to one another as John-sir, or Sally-ma’am, whatever.
The formality and politeness brought with it a sense of honour, love, and integrity for others, in spite of any irritations and differences we might have had. I saw that discipline as part of one’s attempt to distance one’s self from the dog-eat-dog world of modern living. Participants found the discipline strange at first, but after a few days they saw that in the formality and politeness, they honoured themselves in the act of honouring others.
It’s a part of our journey to try to reach for a higher spiritual ground, and respect is just one more rung on the ladder. In the use of a soft approach to others, and through a degree of formality and politeness, you distance yourself from the overall aggravation and nastiness that bathes our societies like an invisible slime. People are scared and frustrated and so they lash out, but one’s discomfort with life is no reason to retaliate. In seeing your life as sacred, you distance yourself from the common evolution and the physical and emotional violence of that evolution, placing yourself to one side. That is not elitist, just a personal choice. Remember, if you can’t respect people, you will have no respect for God. If you can’t respect God, your spiritual journey is useless.
In the old days the title ‘gentleman’ meant just that, a man of a gentile disposition. Being a gentleman or gentlewoman, doesn’t necessarily imply weakness, it just calls for certain rules of conduct. So a gentleman could have a disagreement with another and even fight a duel to the death, but if he did so, it was handled properly in a gentlemanly way, under fair and defined rules of engagement and politeness. Ladies didn’t usually fight duels, but they fought other social and emotional battles, again, they did it within the bounds of honour and politeness.
So make it a discipline to walk in a slow and dignified way through life, with a kind word for everyone you meet—make politeness your natural way.
Our modern societies are under stress. People can’t really sustain themselves at the current pace. As the ego’s dream falters, people become insecure; they look to others to make up the energy deficit they are experiencing. So in America say, the government and the military are ravenously feeding off the people, as are the doctors, the lawyers, the street gangs; each feeds off another. People are out there every day, looking for someone to balance the ego’s books and plug the energy/money deficit. This naturally makes for rapacious people and aggressive and loutish behaviour. The same trend is developing in Europe.
It’s the warrior’s way not to be rattled when things go wrong. He or she accepts their destiny as they find it. They don’t bitch or struggle against circumstances, they look for solutions, rather than being swamped by emotion. And they don’t look to pillage the energy of others to make up any lack.
The warrior maintains his composure at all times, walking slowly with honour and dignity, even when under pressure and in crisis. Politeness and respect are a big part of what makes the warrior brave and larger-than-life. Everyone can feign politeness and calm under optimum conditions; the test comes when the going gets tough and fear and frustration set in.
I love that scene from the Michael Cane’s film Zulu, when 150 Welsh guardsmen are behind the biscuit tins in Africa, and 7000 Zulu’s appear on the hill. All the officers and the men are polite and calm and they go about their duties. The sergeant even tells a soldier to do up the button on his tunic. That battle scene perfectly describes the composure of the warrior. The film Zulu is based on a true story. The Welshmen didn’t lose their marbles under pressure. In fact they fought off the attack, outnumbered fifty-to-one, and they won (from memory), eleven Victoria Crosses, as well as other bravery medals. The VC is like the Medal of Honour in the US. Zulu is a good film to watch, it inspires you to be composed and brave when under pressure.
So make it a discipline to walk in a slow and dignified way through life, with a kind word for everyone you meet—make politeness your natural way. It’s not as if you are going to allow others to take advantage of you, or to do you down. You can have good boundaries and still be respectful, while letting the world know, you won’t allow it to eat your lunch.
If you catch yourself being insulting or trying to take it out on others, or if you find yourself blaming others, then stop and notice what you are doing. Realise you are temporarily in pain and that you are projecting your shadow unnecessarily, then try to rectify the situation and restore your composure.
In a world of endless nastiness with so much vengeance and confrontation, politeness stands out as special. We have made it a spiritual discipline; you might consider doing the same.
**Stuart took this page down years ago – too much agro