Class is something you can have whether you are rich or poor. It depends not on who you are, but on how you regard yourself.

Let me give you an example: Many years ago I attended the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Phoenix. At this conference, proponents of every major school of psychotherapy spoke and interacted with their colleagues in dialogues and case conferences. It was an amazing experience. In fact, a book, “The Lourdes of Psychotherapy” by Carlos Amantea, was published about it.

At the conference one afternoon, a panel of psychotherapists was considering a case that had been submitted by one of the participants. Each therapist was to analyze the case and suggest treatment using his/her own paradigm. On the panel were, of course, highly distinguished therapists. One of them was Jay Haley, a well-known, well-respected family therapist. After he presented his analysis, another therapist on the panel, Dr. *********, responded to it negatively and finished his response by referring to “Mr. Haley. Am I correct that it is MR. Haley?” Of course all of the others had PhD’s and MD’s, but Haley’s degree was an MA. The room grew silent. Haley looked over toward the other therapist and answered politely, “You are correct, DR. *********”

I don’t know if I imagined it or if there really was applause after his response, but all I could think was “what a gentleman!” Now that was class!

Class is when you don’t lower yourself to the level of another person even when he or she is trying to goad you, force you, or trick you into doing so. It is being who you are and what you stand for no matter what the challenge.

In Israel, there is not a very wide understanding of class. If someone yells at you and you don’t respond in kind, you are thought of as weak, afraid, intimidated. Yet, if you really have class, you know how to rectify most situations without resorting to insults and threats.

This concept, for me, extends to graciousness. One of the things I taught my children was this: if there is something that you have to do—something that a parent or a boss or someone else who has some power over you requires, do it with good grace- with a smile, and with kindness. After all, you have to do the job anyway. Why make it harder for yourself and create strife as a result? Tasks you do with a smile on your face are not nearly as difficult as those you do in anger. Anger creates muscle tension and wrinkles. Who needs it!

It doesn’t really take much except a sense of self and you too can be a class act!

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