(Reposted to restore missing link from other published posts.)
Why manners are important. I began to question that concept as I stared at my daughter. In her 30’s, she had slumped down over her food and was busy shoveling it in, arm leaning on the table, tablet in hand. Her kids were busy chatting up storms and stuffing their mouths with large chunks of pancake.
I was appalled!
“Don’t eat with your elbow on the table!” I chided. It felt like she was 5 years old again.
“Don’t glare at me,” I said. “I didn’t raise my children to eat like Neanderthals!”
Manners differ according to the society in which you live. But in every society, manners are important and are lovingly taught to the children by their parents. Manners distinguish those who are educated from those who are not, at whatever level that is within that culture.
It suddenly struck me that, what once was commonly accepted, no longer had a place in our “anything goes” society. And it left me with no real reason for good manners in today’s society. So I decided to research just WHY manners matter.
What are manners?
Manners: 1. Deportment; carriage; behavior; conduct; conduct of life; in a moral sense. Evil communications corrupt good manners. 2. Ceremonious behavior; civility; decent and respectful deportment. (American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1828)
Decades ago, there was a guideline of manners that were considered acceptable in public. “Miss Manners” was popular, and most civilized individuals followed the unwritten rules. It wasn’t acceptable to act like a buffoon in the home or outside in public.
Churlishness and indecent behavior was shunned.
In the critical culture we live under today, this form of strictness is considered “outdated” and “old fashioned”. Instead the “woke” culture has corrupted hundreds of years of courtesy, making the baseness of human beings acceptable, and deliberately ignoring what was once considered done for sake of the common good.
Since the 1960’s (and some will claim it to be even earlier than this), the doors to self-gratification were opened. Once that Pandora’s Box opened, it is difficult to ever close without Divine intervention.
The animalistic side of man has been given the highest stamp of approval. Boundaries and concern for one’s neighbor no longer resides in the corrupt heart of man.
Not unless it pleases someone to reach outside of themselves.
So, too, with civility…
I remember watching the daughter of one of our recent presidents as she was on stage with her family. Suddenly, she opened her mouth widely and yawned for all the world to see. She didn’t think to lift her hand and cover the maw.
The first thing that went through my mind was how uncouth that act was. The act itself was natural and a small one. But it was a sign of something greater. It was a little action of someone who had not been taught civility.
If one were to consider the children of Princess Diana, it was unthinkable that her children would act without manners. For by their very actions, they revealed their status in life. And they reflected the position of their royal parents.
So, too, do the children of our politicians. We may not have royalty, per se, but we have those who hold a higher office in our society than the citizens over whom they rule.
There is a graciousness, a dignity that has been lost in a society that no longer embraces the discipline respectability demands. The training begins with the smallest acts, building on greater ones as the individual matures into his or her role.
And it applied to all levels of status, from the basest to the most aristocratic.
Rejection of discipline…
Parents have fallen short on their duties and responsibilities in teaching their children the basics of manners. It is far more convenient to drop them off at a school and expect them to pick up all that is necessary in life there.
At home, the children are plugged into video games and tablets. Family interaction is limited, and training is shunted to those who are strangers.
The children grow up to reject any form of authority. Managers have had to be retrained to deal with this undisciplined group of new adults in the workforce. Feelings have become the primary focus in most corporations instead of work well done.
Mediocrity and below have become the standards of today.
But why are manners such a big deal?
Let’s focus on table manners for a moment.
Sharing meals with people who constantly talk with food in their mouths or chew with their mouths open is, in our culture, a sign of crudeness. Even still. (Although, it sadly seems to have grown to be increasingly accepted among the young.)
Seeing the contents of what a person is eating is akin to watching a cow or goat chew their cud. Mouth open, the masticated food barely remaining within the lips.
Or how tasteful is it to eat with one who belches loudly at the completion of shoveling piles of food into their stomachs, taking little time to chew? Not only is it unhealthy, it is disgusting.
It appears that the more disciplined an individual is in the form of good habits and manners, the more likely they are to be pleasurable to be around. There is no question of their behavior as it is understood to be of a higher class of integrity.
Greater standards of behavior also generate more acceptable work ethics. When one is concerned about making ones’ self more disciplined in the arts of manners and ethics, their desirability by those who are seeking to employ others is increased.
The individuals who have better manners and behavior tend to thrive within the societal structure than those who lack such discipline.
It starts with the little things…
While table manners may not seem like such a big deal to most youth today, it is a stepping stone toward better behavior later down the road. When one is willing to confine one’s behavior within the boundaries of something as simple as eating without making their company gag, the doors of opportunities open wider than those who are sloppy in their conduct.
In the end, those who have been trained to restrain themselves in their actions will be better able to adapt and embrace the disciplines necessary to advance in their careers and social interactions.
Nice people draw others to themselves. They draw them by their outward actions. It is the cover to the book of who they are inside.
Even if it appears to be an outward action alone, those who embrace interiorly the acceptable attitude of good behavior have a greater influence on those around them to behave well themselves.
How many times have families erupted into full blown fights because someone was considered rude to another family member? How easily, once ignited, was that fire quelled?
Behavior taught in a family setting spreads throughout the society, beyond their household doors. It is a mindset that is taught to the young.
When raised with this concept, the children will embrace it to perfect themselves in other areas of their lives as they grow older.
We have seen that lack of discipline in the rioters who destroy what they do not own. And we have seen it with the bullying of children both online and in the classrooms.
But if we look at the home life, how much restraint was enacted on bad behavior? Was it acceptable to allow little Johnny to steal toys from his siblings simply because he wanted them? Was is considered acceptable to allow SuzyQ to hit her siblings because she was angry at them for saying something she didn’t like?
Where does discipline start?
It starts with the little things.
Make your bed…
It may seem like a silly idea, but making one’s bed every morning is a good habit. Even if the entire day goes awry, when that person goes to bed at night, they will have accomplished at least one task. They made their bed.
So, too, in the growth of little people, do good habits, no matter how small, matter.
Start with table manners. If their behavior is uncontrollable there in the little things, will they be able to do anything greater?
Think to the future…
Next time you tell your children to chew with their mouth closed or keep their elbows off the table when putting food into their mouths, think about the long term goal. Giving them good manners at the table, and continuing to give them the examples will enable them to have the discipline necessary to succeed in both their personal and spiritual lives.
It starts small. The acceptable things that will distinguish them from those who have no couth or discipline. And it will make their behavior stand out among their peers.
Those who display good conduct and attitude will be rewarded greatly.
Bitter foods are made palatable and sweet to the taste with the use of good spices. So, too, are good manners the sweetness added to a person’s otherwise bitter behavior. This creates a cherished disposition that is sought after by others.
As long as that change comes from the inside, it will seep out to their outer behavior. And that goodness will draw others to themselves because those others will see what they want…and lack…in themselves.