When I left home for a visit, Â my mother’s parting words were always “Mind your manners.” Â Except for the Â basics such as, Â don’t chew with your mouth full or reach across the table to take the last biscuit, she wasn’t talking about table manners. Â At our house, we Â weren’t concerned with the etiquette of fine dining. Â She was talking about behavior: Â “Say please and thank you, don’t interrupt your elders when they’re talking, wait your turn, be polite, Â pick up after yourself, say “Yes Ma’am” and “No Sir;” when addressing adults. Â In other words, simple courtesies.
Some of my non-Southern-born-and-bred Â friends tell me that “Yes Ma’am” and “No Sir” makes them feel old. Â OK, so maybe it’s just a Southern thing. Â And, really, Â it’s Â not such a big deal with me. Â Â But Â it is not OK with me Â when the teenager with green and purple spiked hair, decked out in four inch platform boots and a T-shirt with ” NOPE ” in block letters across her chest yells across the hair salon, “Louise! Ready for ya!” It’s not about her attire; that’s her space and I respect it; I only ask that she respect mine. Â We call that being polite.
Although Southerners are nothing if not traditional, my mother’s insistence on good manners was not just about tradition. Â InÂ our rural farming community; short on funds, long on pride; Â manners were much more than that. Â Poor manners signaled “poor breeding.” Â There was no shame in being poor, but to be poor and poorly brought up was unacceptable.
But that was then and this is now. Â There has been a Â dramatic shift in our societal norms. Â Rudeness seems to carry little if any stigma. Adults interrupt their conversations toÂ answer the whining toddler tugging at their sleeve, drivers honk their horns and Â yell obscenities at the slightest provocation. Â Â Lyrics of popular songs are laced with profanity.
Â Sadly,Â we have allowed, even welcomed this, for whatever reasons; Â entertainment,Â vicarious revenge, Â the love of a good fight, or just plain apathy. Â Between 70 and 80% of respondents in a recent survey (1) believedÂ that lack of civility in our society has risen to crisis proportions. Â And yet Â in that same survey, over Â 90% Â believed that they are “always or usually” respectful and polite to others and 75% said they are” willing to set a good example by practicing civility. ” Â Hmmm. Â Somehow the math doesn’t work. In the words of the immortal Pogo: Â “Â We have met the enemy and he is us.”
The fix is so simple as to be embarrassing. Â Any first grader could tellÂ you the answer; The Golden Rule,Â plain and simple:
“Do unto others as you would have them do to you. (2)”
How hard is that, really?Â And the best part? Â Good manners cost nothing.
(1) Â Civility in America VII: The State of Civility, Â 2017Â Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate
(2) Â Matthew 7:12 NCV