Listen to the full article:
In honor of 2020 and the election, I have decided to bring you some delightful insight on the seemingly forgotten concept of manners. It is an adaptation from Aims and Aids to Success and Happiness, one of my favorite compilations dealing with character and virtue.
Because the original was written in the mid 1800s, I have reworked it a little bit to make the concepts more accessible. I hope you find it inspiring, I sure did!
Manners are different in every country, but true politeness is the same everywhere. Manners, in which we are trained from childhood, are really only intended to act as guides to help the immature imitate politeness. True politeness is a result of good sense and good nature. A sensible person who possesses the qualities of kindness and goodness will be seen as agreeable, no matter where they go. Those who lack kindness and goodness will come off as a clown, parading their lack of character for all to see. Nothing does more to build a good name for someone than to be polite, and nothing tears down a good name like impolite behavior.
Good manners and good morals go hand in hand, and it is as much our duty as our interest to make a practice of both. Politeness eases tensions and brings comfort to those around us. It bears a beautifully calming fruit that cuts away anxiety. People are drawn to a man with manners.
Manners are not just meant for special occasions, to match our Sunday best. Manners are supposed to become a part of us by perpetual practice and faking them here and there does not fool anyone. Instead, we must try to choose good sense, good nature and a little self-denial for the sake of others on a regular basis to help us develop true politeness. Social courtesies should emanate from the heart, with the true spirit of the actions coming from a sincere expression of the God-given value we see in another person. More than the eyes, the manners are a window into the soul.
As parents, we should emphasize good manners with our children. Yes, they may feel a little shy around new people, but practice at home helps them to internalize graceful behavior and do their best in any situation. Good manners are not learned as much as they are formed into a habit. They grow when exercised.
Good manners come when we practice being courteous, agreeable, civil, kind and caring at home. Define these terms for yourself and teach them to your children until they are second nature. Practicing rude, aggressive manners at home will form a habit of rudeness that we can’t hide even if we try. Those who appear polite in public can do so because they practice politeness at home.
Polite manners are an essential skill of life. They are the outward expression of inward virtue. We do not need any formal examples or qualifications to teach us how to interact with others if we see them as precious and interesting human beings. If we practice good sense, propriety and tact at home, we will live irreproachably in public. The best things in life are learned in the home.
The true art of being polite is to live in the present, seeing those around us as important enough to merit our attention. Wisdom and knowledge are always engaging. We do not have to flatter or tickle the ears of those in our company, but we can foster something friendly in our demeaner, remaining prudently silent when we cannot concur, and speaking honestly yet agreeably when the situation permits. A harsh word stirs up anger, but a gentle answer turns away wrath. A gentle answer can, in fact, achieve even more progress towards building rapport with others, particularly if the answer is born in a heart trained in wisdom.
The way we talk about ourselves gives others a glimmer into our soul as well. Are we full of pretense and bragging? Are we flashy and self-absorbed? We should not be. Rather, a mannered person will take care to present himself in the most basic light. He does not try to proclaim his importance and status, but rather takes the wind out of his critics’ sails by making no promises or boisterous proclamations. He gradually engages in deeper conversation, not presuming that others are ready to get deep upon a first encounter.
The language we use is a strong indicator of our character: some will embrace the latest slang, showing that they see trends and fads as important; the rude will pepper their talk with vulgarities, revealing the aggression in their hearts and cursing anything that lives and breathes; the refined and polite person will speak gently, every word uttered with composure and care, maintaining their self-respect and their respect of those in their company.
Our mannerisms affect how others perceive us as well. Those who make eye contact, smile sweetly and possess a graceful self-control are well regarded, having cultivated a gentle manner. In our minute actions we show others honor, placing them ahead of ourselves, showing them important in our estimation. There is not a single person who would want to feel less important, and it costs us nothing to elevate one another.
One of the most marked tests of character is the way we conduct ourselves towards others. Whether they are our superiors, inferiors or equals, we can grace them with pleasant behavior. It indicates that we respect their personality, nourishing them, and nourishing us as well. If we cultivate dignity in our minds, our manners will reflect that.
Just as tone of voice makes a tremendous difference in the meaning of our words, the manner of our actions will cast a defining light on what we do. It is easy to see this in children, who obey with hunched shoulders and a furrowed brow. It is no different in adults. What seems to be done begrudgingly or condescendingly will never be perceived as a kindness or favor.
Genuine good manners contribute wonderfully to any person’s success, and they can be attained by anyone with the wisdom to cultivate them. Our current social climate attests to that. Accomplishments that are highly esteemed in one circle may be frowned upon in another. Certainly, a profusion of manners can be damaging as well. Rather than feigning formality, we should pursue a demeanor that is sincere yet kind, honest, yet respectful.
If Christianity had no higher recommendation than this, that it makes a man a gentleman, it would still be an invaluable element. Our savior was courteous even to his prosecutors. A spirit of kindness and consideration characterizes those who honor God. The same mild, self-sacrificing spirit which pervaded the sayings and doings of the early disciples is exhibited by true followers of the cross to this day. Of course someone can be polite without being a Christian, but a Christian, by acting in accordance with his creed and the obligations of his faith, is necessarily in mind and soul and therefore in word and act, polite.
Hope you have an incredible day and may your light shine brightly :)