“Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.” ~Laurence Sterne
I often have my first year students read Peaco Todd’s essay, “Are Good Manners Part of a Good Education,” hoping that they will take some of the ideas to heart. I like Todd’s definition of good manners. As she says, good manners aren’t knowing which fork to use, which is actually quite helpful in professional life, but it’s about looking outward. She calls respectful behavior “the skill of paying due attention”. I love that.
I don’t think there will be many who disagree when I say we have a deficit of good manners in America, and in many other places I’ve been as well. While I think the reward of good manners should be in knowing we’ve done something that made another happy, there are tangible rewards to having good manners. Self-respect improves, education improves, and statistically speaking, employment opportunities can improve, as well. This is so relevant that one of the places I teach does workshops on good manners for those seeking employment! If that’s not a sad reflection on our times, I don’t know what is.
And this looking outward at how our actions affect other people, this skill of paying due attention can reap benefits in making this world a better place.
I am not quite ready to give up on this world. Courtesy and kindness should and can make a come back. And this is something each individual easily can do to make life better.
With sugar on top?