4 Marks Of True Politeness

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:1-3

Some people are very fond of affecting a crude coarseness of manners, and despise politeness among friends, as though it were inconsistent with freedom and sincerity. How important that politeness should be cultivated in every family; not the foolish, unmeaning ceremony of the world, but a gentle, obliging demeanor towards all around us.

“Politeness is not affection, but it is one of the outworks of it; like a wall or a hedge round a garden, which preserves it from being entrenched upon or trampled down.” True politeness is benevolence in trifles. Some people are naturally polite, and others naturally churlish, or rather selfish; for selfishness is the great enemy to politeness, as well as to generosity; and many people, even in polished life, who make loud professions of benevolence and attachment to their friends, are yet too selfish to deny themselves some trifling gratification, though at the expense and inconvenience of a whole party. On the other hand, some, even among the rustic classes of society, discover much native politeness.

1. One mark of true politeness is, that it never seeks to obtrude itself on the notice of those whom it accommodates; but rather conceals than displays the personal sacrifice at which it promotes their pleasure. It is noiseless in conferring a kindness, and is never known to recall the attention of others to it; but seems to forget, or rather actually forgets, acts of kindness, which are no strange things, but perfectly habitual to it.

2. Another branch of genuine politeness is, not to bring forward a subject of conversation which is not understood by the party in general, by which they cannot be really benefitted, or in which they cannot harmoniously unite.

3. Another feature is, that true politeness, without compromising anything that duty or fidelity requires to be brought forward, observes proper times and seasons for saying and doing things. Everything is beautiful in its season; nothing is beautiful out of it. “Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.” So is he who rudely reminds the fallen of past greatness; that treats a superior with insolence; an inferior with contempt; an equal with unkindness; who ostentatiously overdoes gratitude; or who pains the generous and delicate mind by compelling it to decline giving that which it is unable to bestow.

4. Politeness may even be regarded as a Christian virtue; our Lord and his apostles both practiced and inculcated it; we are repeatedly admonished to be kind, patient, gentle to all men, pitiful and courteous. Among other instances that might be given, the Epistle of Paul to Philemon discovers, in every sentence, the very essence of politeness; and the whole character of the Savior presents a living and perfect model.

“My dear Redeemer and my Lord,

I read my duty in your word;

But in your life the law appears

Drawn out in living characters.

Be you my Pattern—make me bear

More of your gracious image here.”

Gorham Abbott, The Family At Home