Love your manners

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Love needs to be the motive, the energizing force behind good manners.  Love brings the goodness of God into every encounter.  Love injected into every connection is a balm of healing and refreshment.  It is a gift that keeps giving.  The tender heart that actually sees the people and circumstances that are encountered in every day living will respond correctly.

 Jesus said no one is good but God alone (Mark 10:11).  Goodness is a grace that reflects the character of God and is recognized as remarkable and attractive by those who are fortunate to brush shoulders with it.  Goodness is winsome, insightful, kind behavior and, distilled to good manners, has been capitalized by many who offer their secrets to opening doors of opportunity (How to Win Friends and Influence People,  Dale Carnegie), extending health (ConsumerReports onHealth:“Reset  your stress level to stay well”), and shaping a healthy society (“Creating School Climates that Prevent School Violence” Reece L. Peterson & Russell Skiba. http://www.tandfonline.com).  The web site: a-to-z-of manners-and-etiquette, ranks manners and etiquette for children as “the most important quality to nurture in the family home”.

According to Wikipedia (http//en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manners) manners are unenforceable social rules that define how people behave who are considered within their society or culture to be “proper, polite, and refined”.  Novelist, author, screenwriter, Robert A Heinlein said “an armed society is a polite society.  Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life” (the web: BrainyQuote http://www.brainyquote.com); Johann Wolfgang von Goeth, eighteenth century celebrated Poet, Novelist Playwright, philosopher,  author of Faust (wikipedia)  said “ a man’s manners are a mirror in which he shows his portrait”(BrainyQuote). 

As a rule, in whatever circle of friends we find ourselves, we want to be well thought of.  Even the rebels that blacken their eyes and lips, and have multiple tattoos and body piercings have a code for cool and uncool behavior.  Heinlein used the word “armed” in defining a society with manners.  The Phrase Finder (www) was unable to pin down the origin for “forewarned forearmed” because it has been quoted in literature as far back as the 1500s.  Point being, if we care to be well thought of wherever we are we need to know in advance what is expected, what is the minimum expected behavior and then go beyond to impress.  Yes.  Impress.

One of my professors in college liked to say: “preparation is the best cure for anxiety”.  As a Registered Nurse in a Gastrointestinal Laboratory where we do procedures to diagnose or treat, it is imperative to have a keen awareness of all the possibilities.  I need to understand why the test is being performed; what part of the anatomy is being examined; what specimens might be obtained, what type of sedation will be needed; what could possibly go wrong and where are the tools I need to intervene?  When I don’t ask these and other key questions in advance I am guaranteed not to have a good day.  I stumble through my procedures setting everyone off their game because my lack of preparedness is distracting and creates inefficiency, not to mention possible life threatening consequences.

“So what does all this have to do with manners?” you might ask, “and why can’t people just accept me the way I am?”  To which Solomon, the wisest man in recorded history might respond: “why do you insist on being the tail instead of the head of the donkey?!”  Shakespeare’s character, Jacque, in As You LikeIt said “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” (The Phrase Finder).   The role we play in life: wise, fool, villain, hero, simpleton, clown is, in great measure, is a choice.  What role do you want to play?  Do you want people to think well of you? Do you care if your co-workers dread when you show up because they know they will have to cover for your shoddy work or you will find excuses to not be there when the going gets tough?  The Bible calls Christ followers to be exceptional.  Being exceptional doesn’t make you better but, quoting von Goeth, it reflects your character and who you really are inside.   There are times I have skipped watering my garden because I was too tired or it was dark after or before work, or it was too cold.  When I got back to my garden the tomato plant was bent down and the leaves looked dried up and yellow.  I felt like crying because I planted in hope but I sacrificed the life of my plant to serve my needs.  I see this as a pattern in my life that reared its ugly head early in my childhood.  I wanted to appear clever so I set my sister up to fall for my jokes at the dinner table.  It made for a good laugh but it was at the expense of someone who needed a friend and allies not a bully.  Another regret I have is losing my best friend.  I have a few examples I could share where I sacrificed the life of my friendship to serve my own needs.  These are things that come back to haunt me and become fuel for deep regret but God is greater than all my failings and He uses these disappointments to spur me to improve and develop greater kindness and stamina to press on even when I want to call it a day and flake on my commitments.   I Corinthians chapter 13 is the Bible’s love chapter.  It says love is patient and kind; it doesn’t think more of itself or try to rise above everyone else.  Love isn’t mean spirited or touchy and easily provoked.  Love is theengine behind good manners. 

In search of a wider perspective on manners I polled contacts from my Facebook page soliciting their answers to two questions: 1. what defines a person with good manners? 2. Think about the one person in your life that best represents good manners. What does this person do that makes their manner so special?  The following are replies received that are both insightful and instructive.

From my perspective, a person with good manners is courteous to others, and is polite and thankful. The person in my life who has some of the best manners is my friend Raquel. She always expresses her thanks, and is kind and gentle to everyone she meets. She treats everyone with the same respect, regardless of their job occupation or age.

 

I’ve noticed that amongst children who come into my workplace (Trader Joe’s), those who exemplify the best manners are the children who don’t have to be told to say thank you, or those who, when reminded, sound genuinely so. The children who repeat what their parents are demanding of them so that they do not get into trouble do not seem to be well-mannered. Perhaps this shows that it is not only the words that people say, but also body language and nonverbal indicators as well. This is likely applicable when observing adults, but would perhaps look slightly different than when oberserving toddlers and adolescents.

Chelsea

 

Re: #1 This is difficult to answer because of living in different cultures, as the norm varies. To narrow it down though I would define that person who has a servants heart while being aware of the cultural norms for that area.
#2-Josien Saagstrom from Holland would be my first choice. She has had to live in two cultures, Holland and Sweden and yet has an ability to flow with Americans too.

Connie

I think a person with good manners is considerate of others, practices humility and understands appropriate social graces.
 I don’t have any one person who really stands out but I picture a gentle soul who embodies my above answer and genuinely cares about whoever comes into their world for however short of a time that may be.

Adam

 

Someone who has good manners, will say excuse me when leaving a table, will open or close a door for me or an elderly or disabled person, a person who will get out of their seat to let an elderly person sit down or a man will get out of his chair for a woman to sit down. Someone who says thank you, your welcome or please. If you are going to be late for a date or an appointment for them to call and let the person know. When making a date or an appointment doesn’t wait till the last minute, makes it in advance if possible. Do not interrupt when someone else is talking, but if you must, say excuse me please.

Tricia

 

Good manners might be about which fork to use when at the table but more importantly, I think a person with good manners displays sensitivity for cultural differences or lack of education out of a desire to help others feel accepted & non-threatened. For example: if at the table someone uses the “wrong” fork, the person with good manners will refrain from saying or doing anything that will embarrass the “wrong” fork user. A good-mannered person engages ears, heart & brain before setting mouth in motion.

 

I am far from being this good-mannered person but I have seen this quality in a couple of people in my life. What was special about them is that they seemed to accept that what really matters about people is not perfect etiquette according to Miss Emily Post but the intent in a person’s heart.

 

Anita

 

I think good manners are actions/words that create a comfortable environment for those around you. I know several people that have good manners. Patti and Teresa are two that encompass this more than the average bear.

Cassandra

 

I think a person with good manners is polite, thoughtful, and aware of what is going on around them and is willing and able to help out.


I can think of many wonderful people that fit this description. But I think Cindy is especially well mannered and polite as well as thoughtful and helpful. There is also Mike, Patti, and Carolyn .

Mike

I think manners run the span of the world that we live in. To one person, manners may be one thing and that same thing to another person may be offensive. To some manners are a way of life, something that is ingrained and genuine. For others they are a tool used to gain the trust of others and the manners might not be sincere. I also think every culture and generation has different definition of manners. For myself, I would say manners boil down to treating others as I would like to be treated. At times having good manners has taken me great places. Other times is has been viewed as a sign of weakness or something to be exploited.

Question 2

I have three people that I feel have great manners. The way I see them express their good manners is by treating people with respect and kindness no matter where they rank on the social scale.

Grant

Distilling the polling responses to three categories I discovered an acronym that, for me, personifies the distinctive traits of a person with good manners:   A for Attitude of Heart; P for Prepared; and T for Taking Ownership.  Following are the comments from those that responded and where they applied to each trait.

Attitude of the heart:  Courteous, polite and thankful, kind and gentle, practices humility, a servants heart treats everyone with the same respect, regardless of their job occupation or age, it is not only the words that people say, but also body language and nonverbal indicators as well,  considerate of others,

Prepared: understands appropriate social graces, aware of the cultural norms for that area, displays sensitivity for cultural differences or lack of education out of a desire to help others feel accepted & non-threatened, aware of what is going on around them and is willing and able to help out.
Taking Ownership: aware, willing, and able to help out, actions/words that create a comfortable environment for those around, treating others as I would like to be treated

 

Attitude of the heart

Attitude is the heart or mindset that produces behavior or actions.  It speaks volumes about what we value and our hierarchy of needs.  When someone you are acquainted with enters your space and walks past without a glance, a nod or an acknowledgement of your existence it is not hard to guess you are not on their list of favorites.  On the other hand, if this acquaintance acknowledges your presence and comes directly over to greet you the conclusion you and others might arrive at is that you are valued by that person and it is a very good feeling.  One awesome tale that nails this mind set of hospitality that seeks not to impress but to reach out is Jesus and Zaccheus found in Luke chapter 19.  Surrounded by fans and “important” critics, Jesus sought out the outcast and made him the celebrity.  When our goal is to befriend and promote instead of ascend the ladder of power we will never be frustrated or disappointed.  Jesus turned the power pyramid upside down and said if your goal is to be great in God’s kingdom then over-achieve as a waiter (Mark 9:35; 10:34, 45).  The hallmark of good manners wisely applied is acknowledging the value God places on every human being regardless of age, education, back ground, gender, ethnicity, economic or social status, abilities, handicaps or behavior.  The Psalmist pleads with God in Psalms chapter 19 verses 12-14, to keep him from the sin of pride.  “Don’t let it rule me.  Then I can be pure and innocent of the greatest of sin” (New Century Version).  Viewing people as tools for promoting agendas changes the dynamic of relationships from server to user. 

 

Prepared

As a graduate nurse I was determined to be the very best nurse any patient could ever have.  My heart was right, I was taking ownership, and I thought I was prepared so I jumped in with all I had to shine my patient up.  My patient was an elderly woman who had a stroke.  She lost her ability to speak coherently and had left sided weakness.  Hygiene is an area I needed to pay close attention to and chose oral hygiene to begin the task.  With great tack and care I dawned gloves and put my fingers into her mouth to remove her dentures.  It was at this point while I was tugging unsuccessfully that our eyes met and we both understood she did not have dentures.  What could have been the worst moment of my career turned out, thankfully, to be a great moment of hilarity for both of us.  But it taught me a lesson I have had to relearn many times since.  Know my audience.  Don’t leave anything to guess or assumption.  Ask.  Clarify. 

Individual preference is arrived at for lots of reasons and does not indicate rejection or censure.   After many years of nursing I encountered a Muslim male patient who told me he must not be touched by a woman.  I could not take his vital signs or complete a physical assessment without putting gloves on.  It was not my place to pass judgment or let his behavior wound my pride.  Either response would be a barrier to providing excellent care which is what he needed.  I applied this lesson recently when I went to transport a patient from his room to the GI procedure suite.  My patient was an elderly Middle Eastern gentleman who did not speak English.  His two sons were present who could translate his needs.  Before taking this man he asked his sons to get him his shawl which he took and wrapped his head in a typically Muslim fashion.  I asked his son, who attended him, if his father was Muslim and would he, like the Muslim gentleman I previously cared for, be offended if I assisted him without wearing gloves.  The son assured me that my previous encounter was not typical and they did not share that belief. 

 

Taking Ownership

Jesus’s half-brother, James, (James 4:17) makes the point that if we know the right thing to do and refuse to do it we miss the mark.  God calls that sin.   Additionally, consistently kind behavior pays off like seeds planted and tended by a farmer (James 5:7).  When I start the day I ask God to give me eyes to see what He sees and the wisdom and ability to fix it.  I own, in some part, everything that I see.  I am obliged to respond in some way to what God has brought to my attention.  If I notice one thing I can praise and genuinely compliment someone for I will not hold back.  That might be the one nourishing thing that person needed to hear.  If I see trash on the walkway I don’t pretend it is not there and walk by.  Isn’t this what Jesus faulted the religious people of his day for in His story of the good Samaritan?  Jesus picked the most disgusting people in the religious Jews’ eyes to spot light their hard hearts.  How can I improve the environment?  How can I brighten the atmosphere?  How can I encourage hope and humor?  How can I make a connection where I am that leaves a happy memory?

 

The word apt stands for aptitude.  Aptitudes reflect talents, abilities, leanings, likely behavior.  When our Attitude of Heart is humble, gentle, kind, respectful, considerate, and we are Prepared to serve those we encounter in ways that resonate their culture and personal beliefs and needs appropriately, and we embrace our call to step up or Take Ownership and meet the needs we see then others will love our manners.  APT transports manners from the logistics manual that teaches one dimensional preparation to a wider application that calls for transformation in thought at the heart and mind levelLove your manners!