In a game of chess, civility between players is an expected part of the game. For #theGentleman, a student I work with is on the autism spectrum, chess has been a game we have employed over the six plus years I have been allowed to coach him. A main skill we work on is being a gentleman wether we win or lose. That is a big deal. A game like chess can serve as a microcosm of life in general that allows the players to practice winning and losing well. For example, I played against my grandfather for three years before ever winning a match. Did I lose out each time, or was I winning experience that eventually allowed me to be the winner? Being a gracious loser is more valuable than being an obnoxious winner then.
#theGentleman use to have great difficulty in accepting defeat. Through all the chess games we have played, his trajectory on how he handles the circumstance of winning and losing has shifted in large part, due to the growth mindset conversations we have. I explain to him how much Coach Bill values how he plays the game, rather than him just playing to win.
How does this play out in a macro-sense on the political stage in a presidential election year? Has winning degenerated into a mud-slinging contest were not only do the candidates attack each other (and each others camps) overtly and covertly? Does it matter how a candidate reaches the Oval Office? The process by which a man or a woman president attains to the highest seat of government can be a harbinger of things to come. It does matter how we go about winning and how we deal with losing. It does make a difference how we treat each other in battle.
During the time of the American civil war, it was commonplace, though not the rule, for the soldiers to cross enemy lines and converse with each other at night. There were pockets of civility amongst fellow brothers and sisters, even if their ideals juxtaposed against each other during the day. When Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered for the confederate armed forces, he did so in person to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. This was a gentleman-like move. Nowadays, in the heated presidential run for the White House, it seems as if there are no holds barred. Anything goes and that is not how you win people. That is not the kind of environment that will keep us great, make us great or continue to establish us as the leaders of the world. One presidential candidate keeps their attacks quite overt while the other meddles in more covert tactics. None is correct. It does not matter that this is the way it has been done for ages. Is it not possible to discuss the real topics that are of greater concern to the U.S. populace, rather than keeping the intellectual tone of the presidential campaigns like that of school children name-calling each other and employing craftiness to bring each other down?
I say that just as in a game of chess, it matters greatly how our so-called leaders get to the oak table in the Oval Office. It does. Surely, it is a battle, yet can the battle be won in a gracious manner? Is this not what we teach our children? What are we to expect from each other if we allow ourselves to be spell-bound by constant rhetoric and hyperbole? Will we ever have a presidential race were the candidates battle fiercely, yet are ladies and gentlemen with each other?
I tell my own kids to let others lower themselves to the ground with their own words if they choose to do so, but that we will maintain grace in our step and action. Let others deal subtly in their attempts to win in a particular situation, yet we will win by rising above the fray. As a Special Educator, Executive Function Skills Coach, Social Entrepreneur and artist, I am in the business of empowering others by building relationships based on trust, respect and kindness. Far from getting stuck on winning at all costs, I train my children and students to hold on to walking with grace. The Lord sees our hearts and knows our minds. His eyes see straight into the marrow of our bones. God upholds the upright through spoil and victory and we need not be concerned with a given outcome. More importantly is how we live and act in the process of reaching our goals and destinations because the same people who we attack today are the ones we have to compromise with tomorrow.
Thus, behaving like ladies and gentlemen, especially when others do not is like amassing great heaps of gold in the bank that only increase in value. It also draws a line in the sand showing to all that we are not afraid to be gallant in the face of mediocrity. Who knows.. the principled player who chooses the gentleman’s path may change the game from the #insideout simply by being civil.