Why Teaching Manners Matters – MBFLP 214

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Why Teaching Manners Matters

Are Manners Important?

In the digital age, when informality and familiarity is the norm in so many places, is it too “old school” to teach manners to your kids? Have we moved past all the old social niceties? Is it unmanly for our boys to be schooled in etiquette? Or is there something important and lasting about manners and courtesy? Where’s the Biblical balance?

Recent events in the news suggest our country is having a breakdown in public manners – when even elected officials are publicly calling for their supporters to be uncivil to opponents, and politicians seem to win praise for how nasty they can be to the other side.

Studies are suggesting that the new generation just starting to graduate from college is so locked into online interaction – text messaging and social media – that they are losing the ability to interact face-to-face, and any awkwardness or difference of opinion is taken as a dangerous, personal attack.

CLICK HERE to read Hal’s review of the fascinating book iGen by Jean Twenge

Should we be concerned? Or is this just the new reality?

Why Teaching Manners Matters

What Do We Mean by “Manners”?

When we say the word “manners” or “etiquette” we might think of questions like, “Which fork do I use first at the banquet?” Actually, though, the concept of manners is much broader than those sorts of details.

Manners are the social conventions that promote peaceful, respectful interaction between people. They’re the way we show consideration toward others, and in many ways, an expression of personal modesty or humility. They’re diplomacy at the one-on-one level.

And we see all of these in the Scripture!

The Bible Says Quite A Lot About Manners

We’ve all heard the Golden Rule – Jesus said, Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise (Luke 6:31) It’s a call to put ourselves in another person’s place, and then act accordingly. Little children aren’t capable of it, but it’s something that we teach our kids as they grow – think about others!

In Romans 12:10 Paul says we should “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”(ESV) Our behavior toward others is how we show them honor – the way we speak to them, the way we treat them, the way we speak about them to others. Paul says we should be so concerned to show honor to others, we should make a point to be the best at it.

And Peter says in 1 Peter 3:8, “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.” That’s remarkable – Peter says this of the relationships within the church (and remember the church was a brand new thing where Jews and Gentiles were brought into close and equal fellowship – when they had previously seen each other with suspicion or even disgust). He says, “Take these people that you used to ignore or reject, and become united in mind, sensitive and compassionate in heart, and particularly, polite toward one another.”

We can go on and on with this, but the point is, as Christians, we are called to be polite people. It’s a matter of respect and self-control, as well as humility. Good manners are not unmanly or weak – in fact, you might point out to your sons (who may naturally push back at “sissy” rules about courtesy) that some of the greatest leaders of history – men like George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt, commanders whose men would willingly follow them into danger and death, were known for their refined manners in society. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about!

Points to Consider

It’s clear that Christians are supposed to be polite people, but what does that look like?

There are some things which are clearly described and still apply today – such as “You shall rise up before the grey headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God” (Leviticus 19:32) The rule to stand up when an elderly person comes in the room is still good manners! The Fifth Commandment, “Honor your father and your mother,” hasn’t changed since Moses came down from Sinai.

But it’s okay to recognize that many social guidelines are different from one culture to the next. What’s your belief about foot-washing, for instance? Jesus and Paul both made a point about washing the feet of guests as a sign of loving service and hospitality (look at Luke 7:44, John 13:5-14, 1 Timothy 5:10) – but that’s not the way we show hospitality in 21st century America.

The way you address people is a sign of manners or respect that differs from one place to the next. In the Southeast, where we live, it’s expected that children always address adults as Sir or Ma’am, unless they’re special family friends and might be allowed as “Aunt Sue” (not actually a relative), “Sister Sue,” or “Miss Sue” – we’ve heard all these! And yet in other regions, we’ve been politely scolded, “Don’t call me ‘ma’am,’ it makes me feel old!”

What you do with your shoes is a sign of respect in some places. When we visited China, we were told it was not polite to wear street shoes into the house – and it’s not a good practice in many American cities, either. In the Middle East, the bottom of the shoe is considered a filthy thing and an insult if you let yours be seen; you never cross your feet where an Arab might glimpse your soles!

That goes for strangers, too

Manners are not just reserved for friends and relative. Jesus warned us not to stoop to insult and name-calling; in Matthew 5:22, where He said we’re courting trouble (even judgment) if we call someone “Fool!” or “Empty-head!” Yet how often do we jump to heaping mocking insults at public figures on social media? Jude pointed out that even the archangel Michael restrained his words toward Satan, yet we’re quick ignore Paul’s admonition in Titus 3:2 “to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.”

Manners Aren’t Optional — They’re Helpful

Proverbs 20:11 says, “Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right.” Our kids, just like us, will be judged by those around them, and their manners will be one of the first things that people note. Let’s make a point to teach our kids to handle themselves with respect for others, respect for themselves, and the fear of God – as demonstrated by their courtesy in every situation! Consider than our gentleness and graciousness toward others – even when we feel like they really haven’t “earned” it – is a mark of our own Christian maturity. And that’s a challenge for us as well as our kids.

In Other News

Our book Love, Honor, and Virtue reached #1 in its category on the Amazon Best Seller Ranking this month! If you’re looking for a tool to help your son gain a Biblical attitude about sexuality, check it out at http://www.raisingrealmen.com/lhv/

If you’d like more discussion about teaching manners to boys in particular and pre-teens of both sexes, you might find our books Raising Real Men and No Longer Little helpful, too. You can get both at RaisingRealMen.com

Join us and two dozen other speakers and teachers at the online Homeschool Parenting Summit. It’s totally free from October 22 to 27 – click here for more information!

Special Thanks to Our Network Sponsor – Change is in the Air Movie

This story embraces the imperfections that make us human, offers a way to set ourselves free and asks us all to take a good, long look at the wild birds in the sky.

Watch the trailer here!


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