Thinking Out Loud

December 28, 2011

How to Show Respect

Filed under: character — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:58 am

Japanese Etiquitte involves different levels of bowing reflecting degrees of respect

In traditional Japanese society it is customary to bow.  While a bow can indicate remorse, it usually indicates humility or even deference to the other person.

In traditional Chinese culture, in addition to bowing, there is a language nuance that has no equivalent in Western society, wherein the first person will speak in humble, even (what we would call) self-deprecating language and then say something that shows esteem for the other person.  The closest we get in English is the phrase, “Welcome to my humble abode,” which, if used when you live in a twenty-room mansion, emphasizes that you feel honored (perhaps even unworthy) to have said guest in your home.  In Chinese society, the remark would then be reciprocated, not unlike the situation where two people defer to each other in trying to go through a narrow door:  “You go first.” “No, you go first.” “Please, I insist, you go first.”   Etcetera.

So what is the correct thing to do in social situations that we in North America, Australia, New Zealand and Western Europe find ourselves?  That’s easy, showing respect today involves turning off your cell (mobile) phones and other similar devices.  Let me ask you this:  How many of you had to sit through a Christmas family gathering where people were texting, updating status, checking messages and responding to emails?  All day long?  In the middle of dinner?

Or better yet, how many of you were guilty of said social faux pas?  Nothing says, ‘You’re not important and the thing you’re doing or speaking about is not important,’ like ignoring the present reality in which you find yourself and instead wanting to connect with the outside world.  The people who aren’t there.  The part of your world which you find more interesting than the present company.

Instead we should bow.  And as we bow, we should reach into the pocket of the other person and switch their devices off.  While they do the same to us.

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April 22, 2010

Better Than Roberts Rules of Order

You can’t expect to run a society by the rules of parliamentary debate, but it often seems like a little bit of civility and decency might be in order.   So it seems rather timely that George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation should be released by so many publishers over the last few years.

American kids grow up knowing the rules as part of a penmanship exercise, but the title is foreign to Canucks, Brits, Kiwis and Aussies.

Many different publishers have availed themselves of this public domain title with 24 editions printed since 2002 currently available.

One publisher, Applewood, has the lone currently-available pre-2000 edition in print and markets the book with this history:

“Copied out by hand as a young man aspiring to the status of Gentleman, George Washington’s 110 rules were based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. The first English edition of these rules was available in Francis Hawkins’ Youths Behavior, or Decency in Conversation Amongst Men, which appeared in 1640, and it is from work that Washington seems to have copied. The rules as Washington wrote them out are a simplified version of this text. However much he may have simplified them, these precepts had a strong influence on Washington, who aimed to always live by them. The rules focus on self-respect and respect for others through details of etiquette. The rules offer pointers on such issues as how to dress, walk, eat in public, and address one’s superiors.”

Prices vary from $5.99 US for a simple 52-page edition to $37.95 US for a 180-page edition with commentary.

However, you can actually read all 110 rules at this Wikipedia page (#91: Make no Shew of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed not with Greediness; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on the Table neither find fault with what you Eat) … though it’s in desperate need of a Eugene-Peterson-Message-style update.   Or maybe they can get James Reimann, the guy who updated My Utmost for His Highest.

On the other hand, KJV-only advocates should feel right at home with the language this title presents.

Better yet, here’s a question to end on:  Do they still teach any of this stuff to kids today?   Maybe we need this to be more than a writing exercise.

Related posts in this blog:  Don’t Blame Seniors (Aug. 2009)

Another reason you’ve heard the word civility in the last few days:  The head honcho of the Assemblies of God removes his name from The Covenant of Civility, perhaps rather missing the whole point in the process.   Read that story here.

November 6, 2008

When Church Services Provide a Good Background Motif for Something Else

Filed under: Christianity, Church, worship — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:49 pm

I had noticed her for many weeks.   A very animated conversationalist.   Long hair that swung back and forth as she made various points to her conversational companion.   I spotted her several weeks in a row.   Talking up a storm.   In church.

I never understood why the ushers didn’t address the problem.   This was a very conservative church and there was no missing her hair and head bobbing back and forth.   Surely the leadership here would DO something.

Then came the week that we ended up sitting directly behind her.   She talked through the call to worship.   She talked through the opening prayer.   She talked through the first half of the opening scripture reading.   It was then with a voice that was reined in so it wouldn’t travel too far, but with a voice that was distinct, clear and firm, I said, “W-i-l-l  y-o-u  p-l-e-a-s-e  b-e  q-u-i-e-t.”

She got the message.   I hoped she would think about whatever might have motivated me to do that.   (Gee, I dunno know; maybe wanting to hear the service?   Maybe something about having respect for the reading of the Word of God?)   Instead, the service ended, and her son-in-law, who was sitting two seats over, stood up, turned around slowly towards me in all his massive 260 lb. frame, and informed me that if I ever did something like that again he would take care of me out in the parking lot.   Or something like that.

We left that church shortly after.   Not because of her, or him, but because the ushers, deacons and other leaders were gutless to deal with her.   It took me to do it.

text_message_girlSo last week my youngest son returned home from church with the news that a girl in the youth group who was sitting a row behind him was text messaging throughout the entire sermon.   This girl — and I write this knowing full well that I have local readers — is part of a family infected with the same germ as the woman with the bobbing hair.   I’ve seen them conversing in a manner so animated that it was distracting to me on the farthest part of the other side of a very wide auditorium.

I like that we can dress casually for church.   I like that we sing contemporary songs.   I like that we show cuts from popular movies.  I like that we laugh and are transparent about our lives.  But…

I miss reverence.   I miss solemnity.   I miss the awe with which should approach that part of our week where we enter into the transcendency of bringing our worship before a holy God.  I miss people treating that part of the week as something special.

If I had been sitting anywhere near this girl, I don’t know exactly what I might have done, but it wouldn’t have been pleasant.   Then again, I might have simply stepped out of the service for a few minutes.

To make a whip out of cords.

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