Does God Care About Manners?
Having good manners is common sense. Learning to communicate those manners according to the rules of the road is what is known as etiquette. Put another way: etiquette is the language of manners.
Etiquette and social skills are more than knowing which fork to use at dinner. It is understanding the words to speak and when to remain silent. It is the comprehension that what our image says on the outside reveals who we are on the inside. It is grasping that we should treat others like we wish to be treated.
Do we enjoy receiving gifts? Then we should also know when to give gifts. Do we feel loved when someone sends us a handwritten note? Then we should also know when a handwritten note might be warranted. Do we like seeing someone talk with food in their mouth? Then maybe we should also close our mouth when eating.
Manners and social skills allow us to function smoothly within the world. When driving on the road, there are certain rules we all follow. We do this to avoid unnecessary collisions that can lead to pain and disappointment.
But what does God have to say about good manners?
Put others first; show interest in others: Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10; Matthew 22:39; Matthew 19:19
Practice hospitality: 1 Peter 4:9; Romans 12:13; Titus 1:8; Hebrews 13:2
Be thankful and gracious in all you do: Colossians 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; 3 John 14; Ephesians 5:20
Be respectful to others and do not brag; always exercise restraint: Titus 1:8; 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Always think before you speak and imagine how your words affect those around you: Proverbs 15:23; 12:25; 25:11; James 1:19
Treat others better than you treat yourself; always be humble; we are all equal in God’s eyes, so act like it: Philippians 2:3; Romans 2:11
People with good manners display great giving with their time, money, and talents: Acts 20:35
Do not be self-centered: Philippians 2:4
Be kind and do not show contempt for others: 1 Corinthians 13:4
Practice the Golden Rule: Luke 10:27
Do not be selfish, rude or a complainer: 1 Corinthians 13:5-7; Philippians 2:14
Lift others up with your words: Ephesians 4:29
Be slow to anger and exhibit self-control: Proverbs 16:32; Psalm 37:8
Keep your words simple and say what you mean: Matthew 5:37
Do what you say: Ecclesiastes 5:4-5
Fulfill your promises quickly: Deuteronomy 23:21
Show discretion: Proverbs 11:22
Respect your elders and serve others: 1 Peter 5:5; Leviticus 19:32
Show good manners when in the company of those that do not believe like you do: 1 Corinthians 10:27
To round out my top 20 list, how about adding the 10 Commandments! These are full of commands on how we behave, thus, how we display our manners and practice etiquette.
(Above verses have been paraphrased.)
The rules of etiquette may have changed throughout history, but manners have not. Why? Because manners represent the condition of our heart. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “If ever you find yourself in a situation in which following a formal rule would be manifestly unkind, forget it, and be kind instead.”
A favorite story that exemplifies this statement occurred when Queen Elizabeth II was hosting a dinner on her yacht in the South Pacific. The party was in honor of a local prince. During dessert the prince thought his finger bowl was his dessert bowl and proceeded to fill it with fruit, cream, and sugar. (Finger bowls are filled with water and lemon to clean your hands at the end of a meal.) The prince picked up his bowl to take a sip, suddenly realizing his mistake. Without hesitation, Queen Elizabeth picked up her finger bowl and took a sip, saving the prince from embarrassment. The Queen might have committed an “etiquette” faux pas, but the good “manners” she displayed were exemplary. (Story told by Paul Burrell: former Royal Butler to Queen Elizabeth.)
Cindy Grosso, owner of The Charleston School of Protocol, says, “Manners are not about rules. Never about rules. It has always been about being confident. Being able to handle yourself in all situations.” Understanding the language of manners (social skills and etiquette) is important to building the confidence needed to function successfully in the world around us.
If you are a mom with children in the home, I would challenge you to begin practicing simple social skill techniques. Why? For the simple reason of developing confidence in your children. When a student studies well for a test, they can say to themselves, “I’ve got this,” when stepping into the classroom. When an athlete trains diligently for a competition, he/she feels ready to meet the challenge when stepping onto the field. When we train and prepare our families to “speak” the language of manners, we give them a self-assuredness that they can navigate any social road they will inevitably find themselves on.
Our goal is not to burden our families with a bunch of rules, but to teach them how to think for themselves in each unique situation. We want to instill good manners, because as we have learned, manners are tied directly to the condition of our hearts. If we are pure and kind on the inside, we might still pick up the wrong fork at dinner, but the love that spills forth from our souls is what people will remember.
Together with you,