No, Middleaged Manners Man is NOT going to be my new blog name. However, something that happened this week makes it an applicable title for this one post. (Some of you might have seen a snippet of this in Facebook, but there is a lot more to talk about…)
On Friday I was walking out of a Circle K, giant beverage in hand, as a woman was approaching the door from the outside. I stopped, stepped back and held the door open for her to pass. She looked at me with a hateful stare and said, “I don’t NEED you to open doors for me.”
I replied: “I’m sure that is true, but you NEED to learn some manners.”
And then I beat it out of there before she could respond – or hurt me.
That Facebook post got a lot of response, most of it condemning of the woman, like the tone of the post. Since then, I have thought a bit about it and want to break it down further.
- Opening the door for her was a polite (and correct) thing to do. It wasn’t sexist or even chivalrous, because I would have done the exact thing for a man, or a kid.
- Her attitude and response were simply rude – no matter what her feelings about chivalry, or even good manners, happen to be.
- I made a mistake by sniping back at her and telling her she needed to learn some manners. Not my place, not my problem. I should have just let it go and walked away without taking a shot. (Even though my response was praised by others.) Maybe she was having a rotten day? Maybe I look exactly like her ex-boyfriend?
- Besides, this woman was not young. The ship that should have taught her proper manners has probably long since sailed.
I also got a taste of another kind of coarseness later that night. We were at a movie theater and there was a gaggle of teen girls in line behind us that were talking blue streak that would make a longshoreman blush. Every sentence was peppered with F-bombs and OMGs. I know, I know – it’s how it is nowadays. But still!
I decided to spend some time looking at manners and vulgarity from a Latter-day Saint standpoint and see how it holds up in today’s world, and the Church. I found a General Conference talk that told this story:
“One evening I was watching a TV movie with my sixteen-year-old son. When some crude language was used, I suggested that we turn off the TV. My son said, ‘All right, Dad, but that’s nothing compared to what I hear at school all the time.’ In visiting with some of the youth in our community I receive the same report. One boy commented, ‘Everybody, nearly, talks that way. The girls are just as bad or worse than the boys.’” (link)
And also the following observation:
“I cannot remember when I first heard profane and vulgar expressions in common use around me. I suppose it was from adults in the barnyard or the barracks. Today, our young people hear such expressions from boys and girls in their grade schools, from actors on stage and in the movies, from popular novels, and even from public officials and sports heroes. Television and videotapes bring profanity and vulgarity into our homes. For many in our day, the profane has become commonplace and the vulgar has become acceptable.” (link)
The first story is from a Conference talk by President Gordon B. Hinckley, and the observation was from Elder Dallin H. Oaks. BOTH in 1987! That is over THIRTY years ago, and they were disturbed by it then. Having lived through 1987, I assure you that it seems like “The Andy Griffith Show” compared to today’s society.
Bad manners, profanity, vulgarity, sloppiness and just plain coarseness are common in today’s world.
But we aren’t supposed to be like today’s world. Anyone who advocates that members of the Church as just “regular folks” like everyone else either does not understand what “everyone else” is up to, or they do not understand what God expects of us.
I found it interesting that the word “vulgar” is defined as morally crude, but also as “relating to the common people.” “Coarse” is defined as “crude and unrefined.” (link) “Unrefined” is defined as “lacking fineness or elegance of feeling, taste, manners, language, etc.” (link)
Are members of the Lord’s Kingdom on earth supposed to be “commoners?” Or is there an inherent obligation to seek refinement? Joseph Smith did write, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” (link)
Does holding a door open for a woman at Circle K mean that I am “refined?” Probably not – but it is an action that increases my personal refinement, and lets that other person know that I acknowledge their existence – even if just for a moment..
What about President Hinckley’s concern? I have had the exact same experience where something offensive is said on TV and one of my kids say “It’s okay Dad, I hear worse than that every day.”
Maybe – but not in my house!
Continuing what President Dallin H. Oaks said, “For many in our day, the profane has become commonplace and the vulgar has become acceptable. Surely this is one fulfillment of the Book of Mormon prophecy that in the last days “there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth.” (Morm. 8:31.) (link)
He went on to explain that, “The people of God have always been commanded to abstain from language that is profane or vulgar. Indecent and vulgar expressions pollute the air around us. Relations that are sacred between husband and wife are branded with coarse expressions that degrade what is intimate in marriage and make commonplace what is forbidden outside it. Moral sins that should be unspeakable are in the common vernacular. Human conduct plunging downward from the merely immodest to the utterly revolting is written on the walls and shouted in the streets.”
Do you see how often the word “commonplace” comes up?
Why is this a big deal? Why is being vulgar, or profane, or having bad manners something that should concern the Lord’s servants, or us? Back to President Oaks: “Vulgar and crude expressions are also offensive to the Spirit of the Lord,” and “Let us recognize profanity and vulgarity for what they are. They are sins that separate us from God and cripple our spiritual defenses by causing the Holy Ghost to withdraw from us.” (link)
I believe President Oaks has it right. I can’t believe for one minute that the Holy Ghost likes fart jokes. (Please don’t quote me on that. It is definitely not a “legacy” quote.) I also can’t believe that he will hang around while we are watching shows with nudity, profanity, vulgarity. (Sadly, this leaves very few things to binge-watch on Netflix.) Because of this, profanity and vulgarity aren’t just things that make us part of a coarse society, they are Spirit-killing habits that leave us without the safety and protection of the Holy Ghost.
I remember that as a young missionary, all of us brought challenges to overcome in the field. Some brought a lack of manners and appropriateness in behavior and speech that took effort to overcome. A refining. Teenage boys are the worst at this – cussing, burping, telling crude jokes, laughing at crude jokes, etc. But, I think we all learned that being a representative of the Lord and behaving the way were not conducive to a spirit-filled life.
Kids learn manners from their parents. Even simple things lie saying please, or thank you, or making eye contact when speaking to someone are learned in the home. It is very possible that the woman at Circle K was raised right and has perfect manners – but chooses to abandon them when they conflict with her personal ideals. (Or maybe not.) This is so visible nowadays in the public eye: Politicians, protesters and celebrities are hard-charging down a path of coarseness, vulgarity and profanity, from which, I sadly doubt, society will ever return. Even so, I’m gonna keep holding doors and trying to mind my tongue – no matter what the world around me considers “normal.”
When we drill down to understand what we should be about, a line from a Primary song is adequate self-condemnation: “If the Savior stood beside me, would I do the things I do?” Or the second verse, “If the Savior stood beside me, would I say the things I say?” (link)
The reality? Nope and nope. But it does present some interesting scenarios:
Would I hold the door for Him?
Would I be looking at my phone while I talked to him?
Would I challenge him to a burping contest, or worse?
Would I binge-watch a Netflix show with Him?
Would I use coarse, vulgar or profane words in His presence?
Would I regail him with a dirty joke, or a crude story?
It all sounds pretty horrible, no? Yet… have you seen this scripture? “For inasmuch as ye do it unto the least of these, ye do it unto me.” (D&C 42:38)
As for me, I’m gonna keep holding doors open, even if it is unwanted. Why? For MY refinement. I also need to teach my kids these things. President James E. Faust said, “This means we will have to teach our children a life-style of our own and provide moral anchors in the sea of self-indulgence, self-interest, and self-service in which they float.”
(“Self-indulgence, self-interest, and self-service.” Sounds to me like a great definition of someone who is oblivious to the person coming through the door behind them.)
President Faust referred to “A lifestyle of our own.” – not commonplace. Not just like “regular” folks. To me, that is another way of saying “being IN the world, but not OF the world.”
“Manners Maketh the Man.”
PS: I am still planning on making the name change, but I am taking the time to do it right.
PSS: GO Cougs!
PSSS: Here are a few links on the topic that you might enjoy:
Purifying Our Minds and Spirits. H. Burke Peterson
Are You a Saint? Quentin L. Cook
Constant Truth for Changing Times. Thomas S. Monson
The Unspeakable Gift. Joseph B. Wirthlin