The Lost Virtue: Part 1- Politeness




Ok, maybe “the” lost virtue is a bit dramatic, but lately I’ve noticed more and more that politeness is slowly becoming less and less common. Worse, it’s becoming boring. Sarcasm and snark is the in thing now, and are made worse by the relative anonymity of the internet. It’s like there’s an unspoken rule that if I can’t see your face, I’m allowed to say whatever the bleep I want to and about you, your fashion sense, your parenting choices, your lifestyle, or your hair. This cowardly cruelty is taking over the comment sections of every website available. 
Worse, that snarkiness has started to bleed into our “real” life, and cutting remarks, sarcastic critiques, and downright rudeness has become the norm. 
Think about your activity on social media. “I’m so happy, my marriage/kids/pets bring so much joy to my life!” is going to get a lot less traffic than virulent rants at the lady behind you in line (which get a little less traffic than Frozen memes).
Remember the “What’s Your Excuse?” mom? Or more recently, look at all the flak Princess Kate has taken for some of her mothering choices. Seriously, people? She wiped baby drool on the hem of her skirt. Wow. I’ve wiped noses with the hem of my apron and continued to wear it. I’ve even been known to wipe said noses with my fingers and rub my fingers in the grass if there’s no way to get to a tissue in time. Don’t pretend you haven’t. 
The point is, we all have “oops” or “hope no one is looking” or “do what you have to do” moments, and unfortunately, there’s always someone looking and probably filming. 
In Chinese culture there’s a custom called “saving face”, and it is the opposite of what Americans think of when we hear that term. The custom demands that in social situations that get awkward, you do everything you can to avoid embarassing the other person. What a difference it would make if we could embrace that attitude in our online and offline interactions! The simple act of giving grace, assuming the best, overlooking offenses (that’s in the Bible, y’all,) and good old-fashioned politeness could go miles toward promoting a culture of peace (that’s in the Bible, too). 
Think about it. If a family sitting in a restaurant has a child that is throwing a tantrum, what happens? They get dirty looks, people at adjoining tables have loud conversations about discipline and basic manners. Yes, I understand that you’re inconvenienced. (Let’s forget, for a moment that you chose to eat in a room full of people, big and small.) What would happen if, when that rotten 2-year-old started screaming and the mother started feeling pressure to give in to his demands just to shut him up, we all just calmly continued to eat, pretending he wasn’t there? Or better yet, when we pass by their table on our way to the bathroom or the door, smile at her and compliment her on her child’s healthy lungs. 
The next time someone writes an article or blog or facebook post that you really, really disagree with or dislike, instead of lambasting them in the comment section, try a) stating your disagreement in a respectful, contructive way, or b) approaching them privately and having a calm and grown-up discussion. 
There are two overarching rules that I strive to follow in all my online interactions: If I wouldn’t say it in person, I shouldn’t say it online. And if I wouldn’t say it in front of my grandma, I shouldn’t say it at all.

And in the immortal words of Thumper: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”


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