My Sufi friend told me that she is musing on the concept of deep politeness. Her word rolled over me like a warm wave of sweet syrup. My heart said yes, there is an answer here, listen, listen, listen.
I was out of sorts in so many ways, feeling hurt, betrayed, abandoned, and sad. What did I know of deep politeness or anything really except feeling hurt, betrayed, abandoned, and sad.
Oh yes and angry. Angry at the perpetrators of my distress. Angry at the circumstances of my discomfort. The anger did not feel polite. The hurt did not seem to call for kindness in response. The sadness made graciousness impossible.
But her words, ‘a deep politeness’, that spoke to a way of acting, not a feeling. It gave me a structure, something I could assume like a ceremonial robe, worn when feelings threaten to overwhelm or on any occasion of state or of being human. If I put it on, it I assumed the mantle of deep politeness, I would know how to be, how to act, and the feelings would fall into line and transform themselves into something my heart could handle.
I could find compassion and forgiveness, understanding and a certain ease. I could act with a deep politeness and the world would get what it most needs and I would have fulfilled my high calling no matter what my feelings.
Deep politeness is like a habit, a refrain, a song that is always sung in these moments and the very singing helps to change the topic, so that the blues are beautiful and the suffering shared, and the we don’t have to go and kill the guy who left us, just sing about him.
Deep politeness is something to reach for and it will always be there, because it is steady. It is what people need, what you would need if it were you, what I would need, just someone to be deeply polite and express their understanding of this very human condition where there is so much that hurts. Where there is so much that feels wrong. So much that we share and understand.
And deep politeness has boundaries and clarity. It does not say, “ok, whatever”. It says this is what matters most and this is what we will focus on, no matter what we are feeling.
It is the note you sound inside when you ask for what you want or comment on an injustice or perceived error. It is the stance you take when you communicate a hard thing so that you soften out of blame and into compassion but you can hold to your position with strength because you are on a high road.
What can you do when you are standing there and all around you is a raging fire of things gone wrong and you have nothing, nothing at all you can use to fix it but a can of gasoline. What do you do? You put the gasoline down.
There have been fires burning all around, in the news, in the neighborhood, in the world, and in my heart too. And then I put the gasoline down and put on the robe of deep politeness and found that I did want to be kind, because in the end, it is what we want. I did want to understand, because it is so much sweeter on the heart.
And I did want to just be sad, not because I was hurt, not because I was angry, but just because we lose things and because we loved them, we are sad. We can be sad in a deeply polite way, with no blame or shame, just our heart feeling the human experience, ready to share itself authentically, feeling the flame come under control, warming us but not burning.
Deep politeness, I think our world could use it!