Friday, January 3, 2014

On the Disappearance of Manners

My husband and I visited a family recently for the Legion of Mary to pick up a statue of Our Lady of Fatima.  I have been to visit many homes in this way and usually we are met with politeness and consideration.  This time was different.
It was apparent that the father of the family was the one instigating Our Lady's visit.  He met us in the driveway and led us inside.  He tried to be welcoming and was possibly a little nervous or apologetic.  I understood why when we entered the house.  The mother sat at the kitchen counter smoking.  She did not really acknowledge us until we said hello and I initially thought that maybe she was just shy.  But she was dressed in sweatpants and slippers and did not make the slightest effort to welcome us.  I wasn't sure about her.  We moved on into the living room.
There were two teenage boys seated in armchairs, engaged most earnestly on their phones.  One said hi and the other did not look up.  Neither one stood or offered to introduce himself.  This was when I began to feel a little uncomfortable.
Manners, anyone?
What I have just described is not an uncommon scene in American households.  The picture above says it all.  "Hanging out," has become the typical standard of relaxation and even when activities are business related, there is an increasingly relaxed code of manners.  In fact, etiquette is almost gone.
The usual greeting is, "Hey!" "What's up?" or some other insignificant, meaningless, genderless phrase.  Could this be because people are too busy to really care?
How can we preserve the precious remnants of a more virtuous era?  How can we revive manners and customs that spring only from Christian ideals?  How can we relate outward words and gestures once again most properly to inward emotions?
Possibly by teaching our children timeless etiquette.  And please and thank you is not enough.
My husband was reading a book recently about George Washington and his code of conduct.  The rules he lists are extensive and almost ridiculous.  Yet they have a meaning.  Proper manners protect civilization and Christian principle.  They do not fade away for no reason.  Our society is loosing its very basis.  That is why manners disappear.  Because God is disappearing.
It's scary.
What do you think?


  1. Unfortunately, many find manners (or etiquette) ridiculous or outdated even unecessary. However, when I tell people I'm an etiquette consultant most of them are very excited and start telling me about how their children are perfect but their children's friends really need some coaching.
    I have two teenage nephews who actually are perfect (**wink**). My brother related a story to me about one of his son's friends coming into the house. My nephew and brother were standing at the door greeting each person as they walked in (nephew was hosting an event). When one of nephews friends starting walking in while looking down at his phone and not acknowledging my brother, my nephew reached out and physically stopped him in his tracks and a little more loudly said "Friend, this is my father" the surprise boy looked a bit taken aback and finally said "It's very good to meet you Mr. Dad".
    My nephews know that when they are being spoken to or part of a conversation with adults, the phones get put away.

    1. Your nephews are great! And "It's very to meet you Mr. Dad!" has made me laugh! Thank you for sharing!

      And thank you for the article. I think that proper formality adds dignity and beauty to our lives so we should preserve it by all means.


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