The value of courtesy is too little appreciated. Many who are kind at
heart lack kindliness of manner. Many who command respect by their
sincerity and uprightness are sadly deficient in geniality. This lack
mars their own happiness and detracts from their service to others. Many
of life's sweetest and most helpful experiences are, often for mere want
of thought, sacrificed by the uncourteous.
Cheerfulness and courtesy should especially be cultivated by parents
and teachers. All may possess a cheerful countenance, a gentle voice, a
courteous manner, and these are elements of power. Children are
attracted by a cheerful, sunny demeanor. Show them kindness and
courtesy, and they will manifest the same spirit toward you and toward
True courtesy is not learned by the mere practice of rules of
etiquette. Propriety of deportment is at all times to be observed;
wherever principle is not compromised, consideration of others will lead
to compliance with accepted customs; but true courtesy requires no
sacrifice of principle to conventionality. It ignores caste. It teaches
self-respect, respect for the dignity of man as man, a regard for every
member of the great human brotherhood.
There is danger of placing too high a value upon mere manner and
form, and devoting too much time to education in these lines. The life
is strenuous effort demanded of every youth, the hard, often uncongenial
work required even for life's ordinary duties, and much more for
lightening the world's heavy burden of ignorance and wretchedness--these
give little place for conventionalities.
Many who lay great stress upon etiquette show little respect for
anything, however excellent, that fails of meeting their artificial
standard. This is false education. It fosters critical pride and narrow
The essence of true politeness is consideration for others. The
essential, enduring education is that which broadens the sympathies and
encourages universal kindliness. That so-called culture which does not
make a youth deferential toward his parents, appreciative of their
excellences, forbearing toward their defects, and helpful to their
necessities; which does not make him considerate and tender, generous
and helpful toward the young, the old, and the unfortunate, and
courteous toward all, is a failure.
Real refinement of thought and manner is better learned in the school
of the divine Teacher than by any observance of set rules. His love
pervading the heart gives to the character those refining touches that
fashion it in the semblance of His own. This education imparts a
heaven-born dignity and sense of propriety. It gives a sweetness of
disposition and a gentleness of manner that can never be equaled by the
superficial polish of fashionable society.
The Bible enjoins courtesy, and it presents many illustrations of the
unselfish spirit, the gentle grace, the winsome temper, that characterize
true politeness. These are but reflections of the character of Christ.
All the real tenderness and courtesy in the world, even among those who
do not acknowledge His name, is from Him. And He desires these
characteristics to be perfectly reflected in His children. It is His
purpose that in us men shall behold His beauty.
The most valuable treatise on etiquette ever penned is the precious
instruction given by the Savior, with the utterance of the Holy Spirit
through the apostle Paul-- words that should be ineffaceably written in
the memory of every human being, young or old:
"As I have loved you, that ye also love one another." John
"Love suffereth long, and is kind;
Love envieth not;
Love vaunteth not itself,
Is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly,
Seeketh not its own, Is not provoked,
Taketh not account of evil;
Rejoiceth not in unrighteousness,
But rejoiceth with the truth;
Beareth all things,
Believeth all things,
Hopeth all things,
Endureth all things.
Love never faileth."
1 Corinthians 13:4-8, R.V.
Another precious grace that should be carefully cherished is
reverence. True reverence for God is inspired by a sense of His infinite
greatness and a realization of His presence. With this sense of the
Unseen the heart of every child should be deeply impressed. The hour and
place of prayer and the services of public worship the child
should be taught to regard as sacred because God is there. And as
reverence is manifested in attitude and demeanor, the feeling that
inspires it will be deepened.
Well would it be for young and old to study and ponder and often
repeat those words of Holy Writ that show how the place marked by God's
special presence should be regarded.
"Put off thy shoes from off thy feet," He commanded Moses
at the burning bush; "for the place whereon thou standest is holy
ground." Exodus 3:5.
Jacob, after beholding the vision of the angels, exclaimed, "The
Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. . . . This is none other but
the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." Genesis
"The Lord is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence
before Him." Habakkuk 2:20.
"The Lord is a great God,
And a great King above all gods. . . .
O come, let us worship and bow down:
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker."
"It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise:
Be thankful unto Him, and bless His name."
Psalms 95:3-6; 100:3, 4.
Reverence should be shown also for the name of God. Never should that
name be spoken lightly or thoughtlessly. Even in prayer its frequent or
needless repetition should be avoided. "Holy and reverend is His
name." Psalm 111:9. Angels, as they speak it, veil their faces.
With what reverence should we, who are fallen and sinful, take it upon
We should reverence God's word. For the printed volume we should show
respect, never putting it to common uses, or handling it carelessly. And
never should Scripture be quoted in a jest, or paraphrased to point a
witty saying. "Every word of God is pure;" "as silver
tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times." Proverbs 30:5;
Above all, let children be taught that true reverence is shown by
obedience. God has commanded nothing that is unessential, and there is
no other way of manifesting reverence so pleasing to Him as obedience to
that which He has spoken.
Reverence should be shown for God's representatives --for ministers,
teachers, and parents who are called to speak and act in His stead. In
the respect shown to them He is honored.
And God has especially enjoined tender respect toward the aged. He
says, "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the
way of righteousness." Proverbs 16:31. It tells of battles fought,
and victories gained; of burdens borne, and temptations resisted. It
tells of weary feet nearing their rest, of places soon to be vacant.
Help the children to think of this, and they will smooth the path of the
aged by their courtesy and respect, and will bring grace and beauty into
their young lives as they heed the command to "rise up before the
hoary head, and honour the face of the old man." Leviticus 19:32.
Fathers and mothers and teachers need to appreciate more fully the
responsibility and honor that God has place upon them, in making them,
to the child, the representatives of Himself. The character revealed in
the contact of daily life will interpret to the child, for good or evil,
those words of God:
"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them
that fear Him." Psalm 103:13. "As one whom his mother
comforteth, so will I comfort you." Isaiah 66:13.
Happy the child in whom such words as these awaken love and gratitude
and trust; the child to whom the tenderness and justice and
long-suffering of father and mother and teacher interpret the love and
justice and long-suffering of God; the child who by trust and submission
and reverence toward his earthly protectors learns to trust and obey and
reverence his God. He who imparts to child or pupil such a gift has
endowed him with a treasure more precious than the wealth of all the
ages--a treasure as enduring as eternity.
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