Article: manners cross all divides

Newry Cathedral News

How often have we heard “mind your manners,” or “watch your manners?” Most often these would be instructions issued from your parents or another adult especially when reaching over the table for something just beyond your immediate grasp.

The phrase “manners maketh the man” is a old proverbial expression. It emphasizes the importance of good manners or proper behaviour in shaping an individual’s character and social standing. It suggests that a person’s manners and conduct are instrumental in defining who they are and how they are perceived by others. How often we heard that in years gone by?

Manners are the social norms and behaviours that govern how we interact with each other in a polite and respectful way. They are the social rules and structures that you are first taught at home and how to behave yourself in public. It is well understood that good manners are essential for fostering positive relationships, creating a harmonious society, and demonstrating consideration and respect for others. That is why when you crossed that social divide, grabbed at something or snapped something being offered to you and strayed from the norm you would catch the sharp end of your mother’s tongue and be told to ‘watch your manners!’ This was a direct instruction and most certainly not a request.

There are a full set of guidelines and uses for etiquette and manners. The most simple and well used greeting that is part of our everyday vernacular ‘hello’ is the most common courtesy of greeting people and is best used with an added smile. Saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when making requests or receiving assistance shows appreciation and politeness. Another rebuke ‘don’t talk with your mouth full,’ would remind you to use your table manners especially when dining with others, and to follow proper table manners, such as using utensils correctly.

Basically, manners are the set of rules that we adhere to when interacting with each other. We respectothers personal space by maintaining an appropriate physical distance from others and avoid invading their personal space. We are instructed from an early ace to listen actively, when engaged in conversationwe should listen attentively to the speaker, show interest, and avoid interrupting. Social rules inform us to always use polite language, avoid using offensive or vulgar language, and be mindful of your tone and volume. Apologizing when appropriate and necessary, if we make a mistake or accidentally offend someone, a sincere apology can go a long way.

In our physical interactions we have a wide set of manners to be mindful off. When someone else is speaking  we are mindful of waiting our turn, to practice patience and wait your turn in lines or.Traditionally it was always polite to hold a door open and stand back to let others through especially if it was an elderly person or a lady. We were always taught to be respecting of others’ time, to be punctual for appointments and respect other people’s time by not keeping them waiting unnecessarily. It was always a sign of good manners to offer help to others. If you see someone in need, offering assistance was always seen as a polite and compassionate gesture. Using the words “excuse me please,” is the correct way to get someone’s attention or when moving through a crowded area, and is seen as considerate.

In today’s modern diverse world, it is  a given that we are respectful of differences. We must be respectful of people from different backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs, and avoid making offensive comments or assumptions. In many cultures, showing respect to others especially older members of society is considered good manners.

We have all these instructions, codes of interaction, rules for behaviour and yet how many of us have neglected our basic manners? How many of us forgetto thank God for all that we are and all that we have?Interacting with God, engaging in our religious or spiritual practices involves a similar set of manners and etiquettes compared to our everyday social interactions. We greet, address, pray and visit him both spiritually and physically in church and communion. Yet how often do we forget our manners, how often do we fail to recognise, even acknowledge him, even just to appreciate the relationship and say thanks ?

Even if you are not a regular church goer, a part timer or even possibly a lapsed catholic, the  basicrules of life and engagement still apply, a simple acknowledgement, a thank you, or even a recognitionof God in your life is an essential. Manners cross all divides. An old friend of mine told me a saying that he was given from an even older friend of his “we should never be off our knees thanking God for every day we are on our feet.” How true this is, an expression that never gets dated or out of fashion.

Whilst manners can vary across cultures there are certain common standards. It’s essential to be aware of our manners when interacting with others, especially those from different backgrounds or cultures. It is well recognised that, practicing good manners helps create a more respectful and harmonious social environment, especially in creating and cultivating our spiritual relationship with God.