Common Courtesy

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  • Talking with a group of seminary students I mentioned that the common rules of courtesy are often overlooked nowadays, especially by those who grew up in the past two decades, an era in which all conventions and traditions were suspect. “Mere convention” came to mean “pure hypocrisy.” If a thing was labeled “traditional”, it had to be discarded as no longer “relevant,” “meaningful,” or even intelligent. If a man had the temerity to hold a door open for a woman, he was sometimes labeled “sexist.” My point in bringing up the subject of courtesy was simply that it is a small way of demonstrating that deep principle, central to our Christian faith, of “my life for yours.” I asked if any of the husbands in the room made a habit of helping their wives into their chairs at the table, even when company was not present. A week later one of the men stopped me in the seminary hall.

    “I just want to tell you that my behavior toward my wife has been altered since last week’s lecture. And you know what! It’s changed my attitude toward her as well as hers toward me. It’s really been revelatory! Just wanted to say thanks.”

    I was immensely cheered. It’s always cheering to know somebody has had ears to hear, and has actually done something about what he’s heard.

    **Excerpt originally published in Keep a Quiet Heart, p. 138.