Is courtesy a forgotten virtue? Has chivalry died? Are manners no longer important? If so, then it is time to dust off “Courtesy” and bring it to the forefront once again. Father Romano Guardini provides an excellent definition on the virtue of courtesy in his book, Learning the Virtues That Lead Us to God:
“Courtesy gives the other person a free space and protects him from oppressive closeness; it gives him air. It recognizes the good in others and lets them feel that it is valued. It keeps silence about one’s own qualities and keeps these in the background, lest they discourage others. Courtesy strives to keep unpleasant things at a distance or at least to bridge them. It tries to avoid embarrassing situations, to remove the sting from difficult and painful circumstances, and lighten burdens. It induces young people to honor their elders, men to honor women, and the strong to defer to the weak. All of these are motives which moderate the impulses of insolence and violence and make life easier for others” (p. 134).
In essence, Father Guardini is telling us that courtesy is a culmination of several other acquired virtues, those being respect, acceptance, humility, peace, compassion and kindness. Together, they all add up to courtesy. Perhaps this explains why courtesy in our society seems to be on the decline. If we are weak in any of the other acquired virtues mentioned, then how can we master the virtue of courtesy?
“Please and Thank You” is no longer taken for granted, because we don’t hear them as often as we should. When we do hear them, our ears perk up, now don’t they? In our “get ahead” society we fail to recognize the contributions of others because we are so busy promoting ourselves. Common courtesy is no longer common. So let’s drop the “common” part and get real with ourselves. Let’s face the fact that there is work to do in this area.
So, how does one embrace courtesy? We’ll address the answer to that question in our next reflection on the virtue of courtesy. Don’t miss it!
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