When I was in second grade our teacher, Mrs. Larson, spent an entire day on manners. It made a great impression on me. I learned to open doors not just for girls, but anyone. I learned to say “Mr.” and “Miss or Mrs.” to those I approached (especially strangers) as a way of acknowledging someone with dignity. I learned to show a graceful respect for everyone no matter their appearance or age. I’ve often wondered how far and to whom her influence has carried itself. Forty years later the ripples in my pond are still there.
I learned very quickly how important politeness is. Some think of it as an attempt at being self-centered or above reproach using such words as snotty, conceited, pretentious, or arrogant to describe this attitude. I do indeed see how it might be played as leverage to try and rise above others. This is not the proper definition nor execution of what I’ve come to understand. Courtesy is the act of putting even the smallest needs for others first; always. This is easily understood when its opposite is realized. Those we know who are the most rude and cocky constantly put themselves first in every situation. They are unkind and impolite. Their self-perceived priorities take precedence. They are extremely unreliable in every situation because when the need for help arises, it’s given only when it benefits them as well.
Putting the needs of others first isn’t just the entire picture. I suppose one could do this outwardly while hiding feelings resentment and jealousy. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve done this, especially in traffic, but I’m also happy to announce that these incidents are becoming exceedingly rare. Being polite isn’t about how I want others to see me, it’s about how I want to see myself. If someone else benefits from something I’ve done, it’s a side-effect, not the goal. I used to become frustrated when my attempts at being civilized weren’t being returned. Someone would yell at me until I finally sunk to their level and yelled back. Not anymore. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of times where I will step up and be a MAN, raising my voice appropriately when the situation calls for it, but I will never be a jerk or insulting.
Do not think that politeness is equal with weakness. It’s not an invitation to those seeking to take advantage of a peaceful situation. Upon the contrary, keeping a calm and patient exterior (as well as interior) lets nothing unwanted influence you. Remember, frustration always commits suicide. It cannot survive without a captive audience so it self-destructs. As soon as its given attention it has a reason to re-assert itself which is why the followers of a great many historical blowhards are just as annoying as their leaders.
At the very least ask yourself these questions. Why not be kind? Why not be patient? Why not be empathetic? Why not be generous? Besides, who really does want to become rude, impatient, indifferent, and selfish anyway?
With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood
Another wonderful article! We’ve hit the topic of selfishness again here, but I’ve already given you a spiel about my thoughts on that word. It can feel burdensome in the moment, but the byproducts (if perceived with insight) are well worth the selfish display. In the same vein, I feel it not to be wise to put others FIRST. Let me quickly “justify” that, because I know how it sounds. When you consistently forget your own needs (or pretend you don’t have any) JUST so that you can spend 100% of your energy meeting others’ needs, then all you’ll do is successfully burn yourself out. You’ll create an existence for yourself that is all drain and no charge. You’ll become despondent, or a resentful doormat, or even less useful for others. There must be a balance of boundaries! Sure, this doesn’t mean to go around screwing everything up for others while you get your jollies. This just means that if you perform actions and think thoughts which “fill your own cup,” you’ll find it easier to overflow into others’ cups. Some individuals need to become MORE selfish, because the way they are living (under the guise of being Godly) is actually self-abusive and stripping them of their fullest potentials. I DO get your drift though (especially with your statement about politeness not being a weakness to be taken advantage of)!
I want to write briefly about how much I agree with your idea of manners! Having grown up in the south, we were inundated with the importance of manners. As a child, you’d be ignored or even popped in the mouth if you didn’t say ma’am/sir behind your previous comment. Manners and diplomacy are highly valued here. (We’ve got our share of hypocrites, like anywhere else, though. I don’t mind admitting it!) When I took a trip to Chicago to give an academic presentation a few years back, I was dropping so many “ma’ams” and “sirs” that the locals told me that I was beginning to offend them. I tried so hard to strip myself of the habit just for duration of my trip, but I stumbled badly. They run deep, haha!
Anyway, my spiritual point that I wanted to discuss was the concept of the Law of Attraction. I’m more than sure that you’ve heard of this, so I won’t prattle. Basically, I want to agree with your “bottom line” in that what you put out into the universe is surely what you will receive. Disingenuous pleasantries will only return the like. You may be able to “fake it” to others, but you can’t fake it to your higher self or the universe. The INTENTION behind your thoughts/actions is what propels you within this universe. Fake attracts fake. Rude attracts rude. Empathetic and generous vibes sent out will act as an invitation to the universe to create the same for you in return. When you frame it via that law, then the questions you ask are spot on: Why not be kind, patient, empathetic, generous, etc??
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Oh! And this quote is a good fit that I forgot to add (about releasing resistance to “unwanted” things influencing you): “Do not worry about people pushing against you. The whole world could be pushing against you and nothing unwanted would happen in your experience as long as you remain focused upon what you wanted. Unwanted things are only the result of pushing back!” – Teal Scott
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Great post, why not, indeed. You have defined the art of being polite so well. Thanks.
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