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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Meditation for Sunday: Where Have All the Good Manners Gone?

The father of our country valued good manners!
With all the festivities and get-togethers over the holidays, it's a good time to reflect on good manners. They seem to be an endangered species these days. Parents especially have a difficult time with the common attitude of disrespect among children.

I once read something to the effect that good manners are the grease that make the gears of society run smoothly. Not only that, but good manners are biblical. Remember St. Paul's description of love in 1 Corinthians 13? They might be a primer on good manners.

  • "Good manners are patient." They don't jump to the head of the line or elbow out other people waiting for service.
  • "Good manners are kind." They doesn't laugh at another's discomfort or misfortune. They don't ignore the shy person at a party who is standing alone with no one to talk to. Rather, they offer a welcome especially to those who appear uncomfortable.
  • "Good manners are not jealous." They don't try to put down a person or belittle them in order to look bigger and more important by comparison. 
  • "Good manners do not put on airs; they are not snobbish." They don't seek the most important seats at the table or turn up the nose at the person who is considered inferior or poorer and less well-dressed or a lower position in the world. They recognize the equal dignity of all people in the sight of God so they treat a beggar like a king.

  • "Good manners are never rude; they are not self-seeking." They don't turn away from someone who is speaking to converse with someone more important. They don't eat at the table like a pig at a trough or interrupt people or bore the company by monopolizing the conversation talking loudly and incessantly about oneself and one's projects and ignoring what might interest others. 
  • "Good manners are not prone to anger." They don't air grievances in public. They don't wear the belt around the forehead and then accuse others of hitting below the belt when things don't go their way. Good manners don't lash out with gossip and detraction over imagined, or even real injuries. They always give the other the benefit of the doubt. 
  • "Good manners do not rejoice in what's wrong but rejoice with the truth." Good manners seek to right wrongs by promoting kindness and charity without sacrificing truth. 
  • "There is no limit to good manner's forbearance." Yes, good manners even endure with patience the rudeness and ill manners of others: the ingratitude, the thoughtlessness, etc. Good manners never give tit for tat, but turn the other cheek. 
Surely, love and good manners go hand in hand. Some writers have opined that films like Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma based on Jane Austen's writing are popular because they show an age where good manners marked community relations.  I think that's plausible and I love those films myself and enjoy those qualities. And, in fact, it's the bad manners of Lydia and Mrs. Bennet that bring such opprobrium and embarrassment to Elizabeth and Jane. 
Saying grace before the Princess Tea Party
Yes, good manners are important. They are a sign of respect and consideration for others. That's one reason this grandmother loves to have tea parties and other little events with my grandchildren where they dress up and are invited to act with good manners and learn the art of conversation. 

I usually do it with the little girls, but certainly a dinner party with the young men in the family as well would be a fun event. perhaps I'll plan that this week while three of our children visit with their families. I'll talk to my expert party planner (daughter number one) and see what she thinks of the idea. It would certainly be a great way to begin 2016.

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