Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Let's Bring Back Etiquette

(Here is an excerpt of an article I originally wrote for the Daughters of Mary newsletter in December, 2000.)

Etiquette is a lost art....it only occasionally surfaces like the relic if a forgotten martyr, or an artifact of a bygone civilization. The doffing of a gentleman's hat, the curtsying of a little girl, hand-written thank-you notes and the idea of dressing for dinner, are generally regarded in the same light as the quaint customs of an indigenous tribal people. Yet the loss of etiquette is a sign of the degradation of a society that has abandoned respect for its own members because ultimately it has abandoned public, as well as private, respect for God.

We must have respect for others, as well as for ourselves, as being made in the image and likeness of our Father in Heaven. The exterior forms of courtesy are merely a concrete means of showing charity towards people, of giving them what is due to their human dignity.

Through good manners we display consideration for the feelings of others. By refraining from behavior which may disturb or disgust, we can instead cultivate words and actions which soothe, charm, and set at ease. Rather than flattery and falsehood, etiquette helps us to be at our best while bringing out what is best in our friends.

Forms of courtesy are small ceremonies or rituals applied to the most mundane situations. As Amy Vanderbuilt wrote in her 1958 Complete Book of Etiquette: "Ceremony is really a protection...If we have a social formula to guide us and do not have to extemporize, we feel better able to handle life." Knowing what to say or do in any given social situation builds self-confidence. It is not intended to make one boring or stuffy, but rather more efficacious in the giving of love. Share


Georgette said...

Excellent post, EMV! Etiquette cultivates dignity and respect, as you say. So true!

Although, I admit I am probably one of the first to commit every faux pas of etiquette, but I am a firm believer that, at least, we should bring back polite manners!

As you say, manners and politeness are really an extension of kindness and considerateness for others-- and that is an extension of Love of neighbor, which, of course, is what the Gospel calls us to do.

elena maria vidal said...
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elena maria vidal said...

The essence of manners is kindness and consideration, even if the "form" is not according to the etiquette book. One thing I have found disturbing in so many Christians, especially Catholics, is the lack of genuine courtesy. Too many people act as if being a "true believer" exempts them from the most basic decorum. Sometimes a smile and a kind word can do more to spread the love of Christ than constantly lamenting over the fallen world, as we are all prone to do.

ellen said...

I have just been teaching my highschoolers that true etiquette is included in the virtue of Justice, as "Affability".
I do like your blog very much, and you are the only person I encountered on the net who had the picture of the statue of St. Cecilia which was made after her incorrupt body was exhumed.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Ellen!! Please visit and comment often!!!