I think the best way to help ourselves and our children to be more polite, is to look at the heart of manners. Manners (being polite) are about helping those around us to feel valued and comfortable. If our objective in life is to walk as the Savior walked and to love as the Savior loved, then being polite is how we accomplish this goal.
The best way I know to help you see what I mean is to give some examples. Here are a few:
We start to head into a door and as we are opening it, we gently look over our shoulder to see if anyone is close behind us. If so, we hold the door for them. Why? Because doing this small act of kindness is actually an act of service. It immediately sends this person a message that says, “I see you. You matter. I can stop my life for two seconds and serve you because I am never too busy to do the most important things, which is to serve my fellowman.”
We sit down at the dinner table to eat and have received our food before others at the table. We quietly sit with our hands in our laps, patiently waiting for all others to sit down with their plate, before we lift our hand with our first bite. Why? Because doing so sends a message to those we are dining with. That message is, “I’m not here to just fill my belly. I’m actually also here because I want to talk to you, to find out how you are. Eating is secondary to my desire to communicate with you and enjoy your company.”
We’re in a conversation with a colleague at work. It’s Monday and quickly we engage in a discussion about our past weekend’s activities. We make sure and listen carefully to our colleague, making mental notes of knowledge about their family so you can ask him/her about these family members at another time. When we speak, we make sure we don’t speak longer than about 2 minutes so that we do not dominate the conversation. We ask a lot of questions. We keep eye contact. We are considerate of their time. Why do we do all of these things? Because, in so doing we are sending a message, and that message is, “I care about you. I am more interested in you, then telling you about me. I want to know you because you are important to me. I respect your time and I appreciate our friendship.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you see that the purpose in being polite, is so we can show love and value to all those in our life. Being polite means that we are considerate. It means that we think of others more than we think of ourselves. It means that we pay attention to our actions and words and consider the unspoken and sometimes spoken messages that we are sending to others. It means that we pay attention to the details.
Being polite is the Gospel of Jesus Christ in action. It is at the heart of every single etiquette rule. It’s why it matters.