The past few weeks I’ve realized how much I value common courtesy and manners. I’ve never really thought much about it till recently when I experienced a lack of both when I’ve been out and about town. Perhaps it is my southern roots finally starting to sprout here in the north or perhaps it is just something the Lord’s been teaching and revealing in my own life as something I need to improve on. Irregardless, it is important, especially as Christians, to exercise kindness and courtesy to those around us. We of all people should be living the love of Christ to all those around us.
I fear many of us are so accustomed to communicating via text messaging and/or social networking websites that we have fallen out of practice or forgotten how to treat one another with kindness and common courtesy, particularly in person. Texting and social networking websites make it oh so easy to rely on short, to the point messages. Many a fight has been caused or friendship injured by how easily these short messages can be misinterpreted. These short, often abrupt, messages typically lack warmth and courtesy that comes from the normal give and take occurring in a face to face conversation. Yet, I’ve noticed, at least in my own interactions with people, that it is becoming increasingly common to communicate with others face to face in the same way as if we are texting or on a social networking sites- face to face conversations have become awkward for some of us. Indeed, I’ve caught myself a few times thinking, “I am going to chat with so and so and I need to remember to tell him or her this”. So, I go up to the person and forget to see how he or she is doing and jump right to the main message I want to convey, and, then, after I share whatever I intended to share, there is an awkward silence because I do not know what else to say since I completely ignored common courtesy. How rude I can be at times! It saddens me that, occasionally, I have to remind myself to be kind and courteous to those around me. Yet, I’ve realized I am not the only one. This has happened numerous times to me, but the roles are reversed. I’m on the receiving end.
I do hope the text messaging and social networking website method of communicating does not permanently alter the way we treat one another, especially in person. We are not computers. We need warmth in our interactions with one another in order to truly connect and form vibrant and healthy communities. We need to see each other face to face and spend time with one another. We should not rely on computers or cell phones as our primary means of communication and connection with one another. I’ve noticed the more time I spend texting and online, the worse my interpersonal skills become. On the flip side, when I spend less time texting and online, the more I am able to connect with those around me when I see them in person. I have a friend who completely closed her Facebook account because she could tell it was affecting how she treated her family. I greatly admire her for recognizing this and for the decision she made to close her account. Obviously, media affects each of us differently. Yet, I think we could all benefit from taking a look at the media we use on a regular basis and examining whether or not it is affecting our relationships or ability to truly communicate and connect with one another.
It is so easy to overlook those courteous things that may seem little and insignificant, but offer warmth and kindness to those around us. Here are some examples:
- Say “please” and “thank you”
- Hold the door for someone and allow a person to hold the door for you
- Give “hello” and “goodbye” hugs (or at least saying the words)
- Write thank you or encouraging notes
- Engage in active, uninterrupted conversation, in which we give people our full attention (e.g. no cell phone/text messaging during the conversation, etc.)
If you are looking for more tips on how to treat those around you, check out the book of Proverbs in the Bible. It is full of wisdom about how to treat (and not treat) others. I’ll leave us with a quote for thought since, even if we think we’ve mastered the art of common courtesy (“please”, “thank you”, etc.), we could all stand to improve our conversation skills. Dorothy Nevill wrote, “The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but, far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”