How Are Your Manners?
IN THE main railroad station of a European capital a line of people waited their turn to exchange foreign funds. Along came a short, stout man. He walked past the waiting line as though it did not exist, reached over a woman at the counter, flourished his money in the face of the teller, and said something about being in a big hurry. He was served immediately, and then strolled off at a leisurely pace, quite pleased at the success of his “me-first” tactics.
Perhaps he was in a hurry. But so were others in that line. The difference is that he was self-centered, inconsiderate, ill-mannered. Many a time you may have experienced similar situations in stores, at public gatherings, on public conveyances. Some persons push and shove their way to the fore.
At public refreshment stands, for example, have you noted that, regardless of the number waiting to be served, someone frequently pushes his way through and shouts out his order? Have you ever done that? We hope not. But did you observe the reaction on the part of those standing by? Some no doubt made quiet comments on his lack of consideration. Perhaps a few harshly voiced their objections. Others, seeing his success, were moved to follow the unmannerly one’s example, well knowing that it was a selfish, rude thing to do. But what did you do?
What you do under such circumstances reveals much about you. It brings to the surface the real you. If you profess to be a Christian, it tells whether your profession is genuine or not. How? Well, the Bible clearly instructs Jesus’ followers that they ‘should do to others what they would like others to do to them,’ and that they ‘need to be gentle toward all, keeping themselves restrained under evil.’ (Matt. 7:12; 2 Tim. 2:24) Why should you demean yourself by stooping to the practices of selfish persons around you? Why permit unmannerly ones to affect you to the extent that you forget the fine manners for which true Christians are widely known?
A well-known medieval poet used the expression, “Murder will out,” that is, it will be exposed eventually. In the same way it may be said that your manners, good or bad, “will out.” Usually they are revealed in small, half-conscious actions, by the presence or absence of such simple words as “Please” and “Thank you.” They can be detected, too, in how you dispose of your trash.
Do you throw trash in just any place, or do you deposit it in the proper receptacle? Discarded cans, bottles, wrappers and paper napkins mar the beauty of public parks. Along a hundred-yard stretch of quiet rural road in New Jersey one reporter found fifteen bushels of trash. On subway stations, at bus stops and around lunch counters litter can often be seen even where trash receptacles are provided. And it is common to find one’s shoe sticking to the sidewalk, merely because some unmannerly person improperly disposed of a wad of chewing gum. Ugh! The thought of having to scrape it off is revolting!
In 1967 an international survey confirmed that this problem of litter exists in many nations. Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, India, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States of America, West Germany and Venezuela were named among the lands suffering from this form of delinquency. Nor did they find it true that most of the mess is to be blamed on visitors and tourists. In fact, 70 percent of those sharing in the survey placed the lion’s share of the blame on local residents.
The litterbug is an outlaw. He is against law, order and cleanliness. He has no regard for the comfort and well-being of others. Look at some of the public parks and picnic grounds where he has been! It is no pleasure for you to visit such a messy place. But when you find that a certain area is already a mess, what do you do? Are you tempted to reason that a little more trash thrown around will make no real difference? Do not be misled. You are, by your word and your action, either with those litterbugs or against them.
Not to be overlooked is the cost of this type of bad manners. Yes, it costs money every time litter is discarded. Sanitation workers must be paid to cope with the cleanup demands, and the cost of the growing sanitation staff is reflected in higher taxes—taxes that must come out of the pocket of everyone.
All of us should practice good manners, but parents have an added responsibility. They should also be keenly interested in the manners of their children. It takes patience to train them to display good manners on all occasions, at home and in public. But the parents’ example does most to help their children to learn to be considerate of others, strangers as well as acquaintances, under any and all circumstances. What young people do away from home usually reflects the manners they have been taught in the home.
There is good reason to check on your manners. Certainly you do not want your manners to be offensive to God or man. Indeed, to each one professing to be a follower of Christ the Bible’s counsel is: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations.”—1 Pet. 2:12.