Please, Thank You, and Excuse Me

Are good manners a part of Christian living? I would be the first one to admit that the words in my title are cultural expressions. But behind these cultural expressions are Christian virtues: kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control (see the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23), and gratitude (Luke 17:15-17). Although I see a great deal of courtesy in my own community, it seems in the wider world we see a growing rudeness and hair trigger anger.

Manners do not come as standard operating equipment on children. My parents had to teach them to me. My Great Aunt Mabel made it a point to teach me manners when she could. I’m certain I didn’t always appreciate her lessons as a child, but I can look back with gratitude. One of her lessons was that I was to stand when an adult entered the room in order to greet them. It was years later that I found there was actually a biblical basis for this one: “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:32, ESV). I still feel awkward if I’m not in a position to stand when greeting someone. Parents are civilizing the next generation. Being civilized has nothing to do with the time or country of origin of your birth. It has to do with what you are taught and trained to do.

In the past year, I’ve been hospitalized for 45 days on three occasions and in rehab for 8 days. For much of that time, I wasn’t allowed out of the bed or chair without assistance. I’ve had a lot of dealings with nurses and nursing techs, and I practiced manners and kindness. I realized I wasn’t the only person on the floor, and that pushing the call button might not get an instant response. I tried to plan ahead so that my calls were not urgent. I was cooperative and considerate. I treated them as the medical professionals they are. And do you know what? I was treated with kindness and consideration in return. I was not motivated by that, but we do reap what we sow. (Obviously, there will be exceptions where you will be treated rudely in return, but I think at this time, it will be the exception and not the rule.) I had one nurse say to me: “I had a really bad day yesterday. I’m so glad to have you as a patient today.” And they knew that the way I treated people was because I am a Christian.

In an increasing rude world, good manners motivated by Christian virtues will stand out and be noticed. It will make life more pleasant, and it will make you more pleasant to be around. The “magic words” as some parents call them are still valid: please, thank you, and excuse me.

— Russ Holden

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