With those we’re closest to, it’s easy to get lazy and forget the fundamentals — like simple kindness. I know I do this, and need to be reminded to practice kindness with my husband, children, and friends.
I remember a conversation I had with my mother when I was just a little girl. A couple my parents’ age had apparently had a very difficult marriage. Mother’s comment to me was that one of the reasons this couple did not break up was because he was a gentleman and treated her as a gentleman should.
Have we lost our manners?
Now, I didn’t think much of this comment at the time, but in recent years I’ve reflected on the actions of this man. Sadly, his sense of civility has become lost in today’s culture of rudeness, cynicism, sarcasm, and the emphasis on “my rights.” And this loss is impacting each of our lives—in how we relate with our colleagues, in our marriages, and in how we train (or don’t train) our children.
We live in DC, a city in which rudeness, sarcasm, and false accusations are all too common. Cynicism is found on the Hill, in the PTA meeting, at the local playground, or a dinner party, and even in our homes.
If I’m honest . . .
I see a loss of civility in my own life. It’s too easy to judge another person’s behavior or words than it is to believe the best of them. Easy to fall into the trap of speaking ill of someone behind their back. Easy to be rude in the traffic lane. And easy to be rude to my husband.
I have found it helpful to ask myself these questions,
Am I kind to those holding up the line I’m in? Am I unfairly cynical towards another person, dismissing their comments? Do I choose to refrain from entering a conversation that is criticizing someone and instead turn the conversation to the good in that person?
In my marriage:
Do I treat my husband John in the same way I would my close friend or an older visitor to my home? Do I speak to him in the same way I would another person? Am I considerate and thoughtful—even when I don’t feel like it or am irritated with him?
In all honesty, my answer would most likely be “no.” I didn’t ask him if he’d like me to fix him a cup of coffee, or if there was something I could do for him. I didn’t thank him for something he routinely does; instead, I took it for granted. I didn’t say, “I hope you have a great day.” It’s so easy to get lazy with those that you are the closest to. But beware—laziness becomes a fertile field for rudeness and bitterness, both of which can destroy relationships.
The power of simple kindness
We have found that many marriages which are headed into trouble can be rescued if civility, manners, and thoughtfulness become habits instead of exceptions. Sometimes simple kindnesses can lay the groundwork for healing to take place in a relationship. Frequently a kind action must be done simply because it is the right thing to do, not because we feel like it or because the other person deserves it. But just because it’s right.
Let’s encourage one another to act like ladies and gentlemen. Beginning today, let’s speak and act with kindness in one specific way towards someone else. If we recapture a sense of civility one step at a time—with others and in our marriages, our children will be more likely to treat other people and especially their future mates with grace and kindness.
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