There is a substantial difference between being “politically correct” and being “graciously courteous.” It is an important piece of educating the whole child, and future success or failure as a human being could be contingent upon the ability to distinguish between the two.
A person who strives to attain a proficient level of political correctness filters their words to choose the most acceptable way to express themselves without stumbling upon inflammatory, controversial language or catch-phrases. This constant effort to police themselves often creates a kind of falseness or insincerity since the speaker must expend a great deal of energy tiptoeing around the construction of their words so that meaning and substance sometimes get lost in the shuffle.
Intention is also important. The politically correct individual often feigns social correctness to achieve certain goals. The objective most often involves some form of personal gain which should never be the motivating force behind common decency and respect for others.
The person who attempts to achieve an aura of grace and kindness is setting the bar at a higher and more profound mark. They do not get tangled in semantics or syntax, tropes and schemes. They simply act with self-respect and respect for others. This has several implications.
First, we must assume that they are genuine in their interactions with others and not merely trying to affect a kind of concern. They have mastered the art of listening and responding in good measure, honestly and appropriately.
Secondly, there are no ulterior motives, agenda, or manipulations at play. The point of interpersonal communication is to share ideas, articulate perceptions, learn new things, problem solve, grow/evolve, and experience empathy for others.
There are many indicators that our world has lost its ability to have a genuine and authentic connection with other individuals. Blame the “disconnect” that technology spawns, or point fingers at a lack of modeling from harried multi-tasking parents with caffeine and sugar attention spans. In the end, it doesn't benefit anyone to play the “blame game.”
In my curmudgeonly, baby boomer biased opinion, there are several things we could all reflect upon that would jump-start a movement toward a more civil and courteous society. Parents are the only ones who can teach these kinds of life lessons. Most adults over 40 will probably agree:
1. Dressing: Do not go out in public (and that includes going to school) in your pajamas and house-shoes.
There was a time when no sane person would leave their house in their PJ’s. Not only would it be an affront to anyone who was forced to witness this intimate apparel, but also a sign of lagging self-respect. It is just as easy and comfortable to slip on a pair of yoga pants or sweatpants and some flip-flops. Why venture out in your skivvies? If you cannot manage to step into some real clothes, stay home.
2. Driving: Do not blaze down the road with a reckless and rude sense of urgency that endangers the lives of others as well as your own.
Was there ever a time when the majority of drivers were courteous and patient? Of course there have always been a few impatient jerks, but in it was not the norm as it is today. The frustrations of gridlock and traffic purgatory are no excuse to cut people off, zip in and out of lanes, and follow much too closely. Add those who drive impaired because of alcohol, prescription meds, fatigue, or illness and it is a miracle that anyone on a bicycle ever survives their ride home.
3. Tipping: If you cannot afford to tip your server, pizza delivery driver, etc…, then stay home and prepare your own food.
The people who work in the food industry who depend on tips do not make minimum wage. If they do not receive 18%-20% in tips, they work for less than minimum wage which we all know is not enough to survive these days. And before you judge them, remember that many professionals with college degrees are now working in the service industry simply because the careers they were promised are not there. They may have student loans, a family to support, etc…The rank and file is no longer limited to high school kids and people who opted out of higher ed. Take a closer look…they are older and wiser than ever before. Let little Billy hand over the tip. It will instill a lifelong appreciation for the work of others.
4. Temperance: Clearly a virtue than has been lost in the 21st century shuffle, it is time for a comeback since so many people today self-destruct because of “excess.” Everything in moderation!
It is not just that everything is bigger in Texas; it is an American epidemic. More is not necessarily better. Individuals must develop some self-restraint, and parents must model this for their children if they don’t want their 7th grader binge drinking at the next sleep-over. There is a generation out there who has no idea how to enjoy themselves without a “craft” beer in one hand and a video game controller in the other. Let’s wean children from the bottle, the beer bottle, and show them ways to have fun without self-medicating.
5. Self-sufficiency: Children who are propped up by well-meaning parents often flounder as adults who have not learned to self-advocate, problem solve, monitor relationships with authority figures, or develop time management skills.
Failure is a necessary stepping stone to success, and parents should allow these growth opportunities for character enrichment. Adults who struggled from time to time and were not “rescued” at the first sign of distress manage better and have more compassion for others. Helicopter parents who hover vigilantly are not acting in their child’s best interest. And never blame others (like the teacher or the other kid) or make excuses for your child. They will learn these self-defeating, irresponsible, and entitled behaviors and continue the unhealthy cycle for years to come.
The list of rude and inappropriate behaviors is endless; however, address these five offending categories to teach the young people in your family how to courteous citizens of the world. Practice what you preach and model positive behavior at every opportunity. The five items above merely provide a place to start or a jumping off point if you will.
Civility and grace seem to be losing ground to their rude, crude cousins. The worst part is that so many people are actually proud of their brash behavior.
The world could once again be a place of kindness, dignity, and elegance of spirit. We must acknowledge how debased society has become and protect our own sacred space by respecting the space of others.