In a doctor’s office waiting room this week, I found myself seated in one of the five available, socially distanced chairs available for us when a sixth person arrived. She was a young woman, in her 30’s perhaps. She checked in, and since there was no seat available for her, she went and stood by the door.
I sat there for a minute doing the moral calculus. Who gets the chair? The younger woman or the newly inaugurated senior citizen (if I have to be 65, I’m going to take full advantage of whatever benefits are available to me!)?
After about 15 seconds, I realized that offering her the chair was the right thing to do.
She smiled when I spoke to her and graciously told me that she preferred to stand (maybe thinking to herself “I don’t want the old guy to have to be on his feet too long”). Another woman in the waiting room commended me for my chivalry, remarking that it was something rarely seen in our day.
I was back in the exam room a few minutes later, waiting for the doctor to arrive and thinking about common courtesies and manners in our world today. I don’t remember receiving any kind of formal instruction growing up about holding doors for others or waiting until everyone is served before you begin to eat (I still am not crazy about that rule). But somehow, at least a few of those cultural mores were absorbed. Maybe my “do a good deed daily” years as a Boy Scout influenced me more than I realized.
Back in the day, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette ran a regular column that was written by a local woman named June Moore. It was called “Moore on Manners.” Her columns eventually became a book titled Manners Made Easy For The Family. When I interviewed her about the book, we talked about the biblical basis for good manners. It’s not, she said, about coming up with a list of stuffy dos and don’ts that supposedly validate your proper upbringing. Good manners are essentially summed up in the biblical admonition to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matt. 7:12) and to “regard others as more important than yourself” (Phil. 2:3). It’s less about which fork to use at a formal dinner, and more about being kind and considerate of others.
I fear there is a lost art to teaching manners in our day. It takes both effort and patience to teach children not to interrupt, to say please and thank you, to let others go first, to share, and to look for ways to serve others. It also requires that we be teachers who practice what we preach. Our children will ultimately learn more from the example and tone we set than from anything we teach them.
But there is a lot more to practicing good manners than teaching rules of etiquette to children. Our civil society is becoming a whole lot less civil because good manners have gone out of fashion. In our polarized culture, too many people see civility as something for losers. You can’t “own” your opponent with civility. Snark and sarcasm are celebrated, while courtesy and consideration will get you nowhere.
Columnist Jim Geraghty who writes for the National Review made the observation this week that the more we have been living our lives online, the less civil we have become. We say things in our Facebook posts or our Twitter feed that we would never say to a real person face to face.
Geraghty writes “At some point, you’ve probably watched someone behave extraordinarily rudely or flip out in public and shaken your head and concluded, ‘That person just doesn’t know how to act.’ And it may well just be that person’s personality. But I wonder how much off-line obnoxiousness or hostility reflects that people’s sense of how to behave and speak to others is being shaped by online discourse.
“Online discourse is almost always coarser, cruder, meaner than off-line discourse. Think about how a volunteer active in politics has to act while door-knocking, manning a booth at a county fair, or phone-banking, compared to the way people talk to each other about politics on social media. If you’re rude, condescending, dismissive, raging, or insulting in real life, you will repel the people you want to persuade.
“While there are exceptions, in most arguments on social media, the default setting is that everyone who disagrees with you is at best an idiot, or more likely, a threat to good people everywhere. Both social media and regular media offer an endless buffet table of examples that the people who think differently than you really are imbecilic, corrupt, malevolent, and a danger to others.”
Maybe you’ve blurted out things online that were not edifying. We do it out of frustration, fear or anxiety. Or maybe it’s self-righteousness that drives us. Virtue signaling is a potent motivation.
At the end of the day, each one of us needs to ask if our online posts are Christ honoring. The more prophetic we are tempted to be online, the more careful we need to be. The more prayerful we need to be.
My friend Dan Darling has written a helpful book on this subject called A Way With Words: Using Our Online Conversations For Good. You can get a helpful synopsis of the book here. Depending on how much you’re posting online, it may be a good book for you to read.
I’ve tried over the last few years to follow the instruction found in Ephesians 4 both IRL (in real life) and online. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths (or your keyboards), but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29, parenthetical comments added).
It’s been good for me to ask these questions before I speak or post or tweet.
- Is what I’m about to say going to have an edifying effect on others?
- Or a corrupting effect?
- Does it fit the occasion?
- Does it need to be said?
- Is what I’m about to say true? Kind? Necessary? Helpful?
- Does it give grace to others?
|WHAT KIND OF A GOSPEL STATEMENT ARE YOU MAKING?|
|How we speak and act with one another matters. And how we interact online can easily spill over into our face to face encounters. Every interaction is a gospel statement.|
SUNDAY HELPERS NEEDED | AGE 0-3
It’s so encouraging to see our Sunday morning ministry to children starting to fill up again. And I’m so grateful for those of you who have agreed to be part of the rotation that is making children’s ministry happen on Sundays.
We still have a need for more help. There’s minimal prep requires, and each time you’re with the children, you’re able to pour into the lives of some of our most precious church family members.
Reach out to Jen Gurney and let her know you’re interested & available.
Email: email@example.com. Text: 859-771-6580 for more information.
The Gathering for women is this Friday night. If you’ve been putting off a decision about attending, now is the time to click on this evite and RSVP. I mean now as in “RIGHT NOW.” We’ll be placing the food order on Thursday.
FLOAT THE BUFFALO | Sat, May 22
|Sunday, May 2, is the last day for you to sign up for a relaxing trip down the Buffalo River.|
|The trip will cost $30-$35 per person. Scholarships are available. BYO Lunch. Email or text Pastor Matt for more info or to let him know you’d like to go. Mattgurney77@gmail.com.|
PARKING LOT PICNICS – WEDNESDAYS – june 2, 9, 16, 23
|Next week, I’ll have more specifics for you about food, fun and games and what we’re planning for these Wednesday night get togethers.|
The past 12 months have challenged all of us when it comes to contentment. It’s been a hard virtue to hang onto.
This Sunday, we have a great opportunity to hear about what the Bible tells us about how we can cultivate a heart of contentment. Pastor Dave Harvey will be with us as a special guest speaker to guide us through what the book of Philippians tells us about our quest for contentment.
Dave has been at Redeemer before. He’s an author and a compelling Bible teacher. You can find out more about Dave here.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!