Proper Manners

by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Chapter 3 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, How To Rear Children)

Someone has said, "Manners are the bridges which men build over the gulfs which separate them and their castles of self and over which they pass in their dealings with one another." Basically then the having of good manners is displaying the proper treatment, mingled with propriety, to one's fellowman. Better still, it is simply living by the golden rule. At the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, we stress one word to our young people above all other words. That word is "appropriate." We believe that education includes the ability to be appropriate in any given right situation without embarrassing one's fellowman. Our young people are taught to know and exhibit proper behavior whether on the ball field, at a concert, in church, out fishing, or at home with the family. This chapter will deal with the proper development of manners for our children toward their fellowman.

1. Proper manners should be an appropriate outward expression of an inner feeling of goodwill toward our fellowman. In other words, manners are an outward expression of an inner feeling. Manners are therefore more than ritual and form. There should be a friendly and brotherly feeling of sympathy and helpfulness toward others. Good manners are simply the expression of this inner condition of the mind. Improper manners are an expression of an improper frame of mind and attitude toward others. Hence, the first way to instill good manners in the child is to instill in his heart a feeling of brotherly kindness and goodwill toward all human beings. This is brought about by possession of true Bible meekness. The word "meek" in the Bible implies "equality." A person who possesses true meekness says not, "I am as good as you are," but rather, "You are as good as I am." This philosophy should be the foundation of good manners, for when it is present, manners will take care of themselves.

Courtesy, then, becomes simply the expression of the state of one's mind. This is not to say we are not to be courteous if we do not have a mind to do so. We should exhibit courtesy even if it is mere form, but courtesy in its purest sense is when the proper behavior toward others expresses the proper attitude toward him. The courteous man says, "You are my equal and I have a friendly feeling toward you." The discourteous person says, "You are not my equal and I am not interested in you. I am interested only in myself." Manners become symbols which indicate without words a friendly disposition of one's mind toward his fellowman. When he shakes hands his is using an ancient custom which was brought about by the giving of one's right hand to another making his hand engaged so he would be unable to fight. It is the joining of two fighting hands and the voluntary giving of one's weapon in battle. Hence, it is a symbol which say, "I do not want to hit you. I do not want to fight you, for I feel friendly toward you."

In the early days when a warrior came to someone with whom he did not want to fight, he took off his helmet. Hence, we take off our hats today in the presence of a friend. This is to tell him, "I do not want to war with you and I feel so confidently that you do not want to war with me that I am willing to remove that which guards the safety of my head." Again, here is a symbol of the inner condition of one's heart.

2. Proper manners will create this inner goodwill. It is somewhat like the hen and the egg. Each reproduces the other. Our goal is for the child to have the proper feeling toward others so as to generate good manners. On the other hand, this proper feeling is often created by good manners themselves. The help produce the feeling for which they are the sing. Put a sour look on one's face and in turn he will have a sour feeling in his heart. Consequently, in a sense, each man creates his own atmosphere. A smile on one's face will soon put a smile in his heart. This is one of the main reasons why proper dress is important. How we dress and behave can determine how we feel inwardly. In turn, how we feel inwardly helps us dress and behave more properly.

3. Proper manners should first be exhibited at home. This, of course, is because the habits are formed at home. Children should be taught to say happily, "Good-morning," to those at home, to use the word "please" when they ask a favor, to be generous with the phrase, "thank you", and to be unselfish, especially toward their parents. One of the most important things in rearing a child to have good manners is to teach that child to prefer his parents. He should always be seeking the comfort and pleasure of them, seeing to it that Mom and Dad get the most comfortable chairs, their favorite positions, etc. Many parents think this would be selfishness on their part, which is not true at all! Their motive for teaching their child this type of behavior is not so the parent will enjoy life more but so that the child will exhibit proper manners at home which will later be transferred to those outside the home. Confuscius said, "Eat at your own table as you would eat at the table of the king."

Emphasis should be placed on proper manners at the table in the child's home. He should learn to seat himself properly, sit properly, wait until his turn to be served, etc. He should be taught the proper way of holding a fork, the placing of a napkin on his lap, proper chewing of the food, and other basic manners so often forgotten in our generation. He should not be allowed to reach across the table. He should refrain from expressions of dislike for certain foods.

These manners should be practiced. We have learned that character is the developing of the proper habits. The proper habits can be developed only through practice. Much practice should be given concerning proper table manners and home courtesies.

One of the most important things a child should be taught is to be cheerful at home since cheerfulness and cleanliness are both contagious. We must be careful to affect others properly with our personalities. A child should be taught to laugh. (Of course, this should also be done with propriety and temperance.) Laughter makes one more healthy. It causes the heart to beat faster and sends the blood bounding through the body. When a person laughs, respiration is increased, the eye brightens, the chest expands, bad air is forces out of the lungs, the internal organs are caused to vibrate, etc. Laughter has a good effect on the liver and gastric juices. In some cases physicians have prescribed laughter. One doctor even gave a patient this prescription: "Laughter to be taken five minutes every three hours." A cheerful spirit at home will help to create a proper state of mind and a proper state of mind can create proper manners.

4. Being punctual is one of the essentials for good manners, for not being on time is one of the great injustices that one human being can do to another. Lack of promptness and punctuality is really stealing. It is stealing the other person's time. It is also lying, for it is a failure to keep promises.

Napoleon was always ahead of time. He said, "Every moment lost is an opportunity for misfortune." Lord Nelson, the English admiral, said that his success was largely attributed to the fact that he was always on time. He said he gave himself a quarter of an hour extra time. This allowed for accidents.

Matthew's said that men who are habitually behind time are habitually behind success. Napoleon said he beat the Austrians because they did not know the value of five minutes.

A man once spent some time in Benjamin Franklin's book shop. He was looking at a certain book and asked its price. The salesman replied that it cost $1. The customer asked to see Benjamin Franklin about the price. Although Franklin was very busy the man would not be satisfied until he was called. He then proceeded to tell Mr. Franklin how much he wanted the book, for what purpose, etc. and asked for the lowest price Mr. Franklin could place on the book. Franklin replied, "$1.25." The man was stunned and said, "All your clerk asked was $1."

"Yes," said Franklin, "but you have taken my time which is worth far more than a quarter." The man objected an finally asked again what the price was. Franklin replied. "The price is now $1.50 for you have taken more of my time." The man immediately paid $1.50 and left the store.

Parents should constantly stress to their children the importance of promptness and punctuality. This is why churches should start their services on time. School teachers should stress thee importance of arriving in class on time, in order that the child may form habits of punctuality for his future life.

A child should get up on time, got to bed on time, come home from school on time, and keep all of his appointments. Promptness is doing the duty now. It is doing a task on time. The mind should receive an indelible impression of the time an appointment is to be kept and it should be kept without fail.

5. There is some definite manners that the parent should practice and rehearse with the child.

(1) Standing when an adult walks into the room.

(2) Introducing one's self properly to a stranger. For instance, Hyles is an unusual name. I have found it best to spell it out when I give my name to a stranger.

(3) Properly introducing one's friend to another.

(4) Shaking hands. Young men should especially spend much time practicing shaking hands with attention given to a firm handshake and to looking the person in the eye while speaking.

(5) Walking. Girls should be taught to walk like ladies and boys should be taught to walk like men.

(6) Sitting gracefully. Boys should be taught to sit like men and girls should be taught to sit like ladies.

(7) Answering the telephone. Something like, "Good morning, this is Johnny Doe," would be appropriate. Perhaps some families would prefer, "This is the Doe residence; Johnny is speaking."

(8)The giving of a seat by a young man to a lady.

(9)Using proper table manners.

(10) Not interrupting another who is speaking.

(11) Showing courtesy to strangers, aged people, and guests.

(12) Respecting age and showing preference to one's elders.

(13) Avoiding slang and profane speech. The use of slang implies that one goes along with the crowd as they are affected by the desire to be popular. It implies that one is not a strong personality, that his vocabulary is very limited, and that he does not have the proper words at his command to express his meaning properly. It implies the lack of will power. It implies the lack mental maturity and propriety.

(14) Not complaining, grumbling, finding fault.

(15) Refraining from disturbing the enjoyment of others by talking loudly and laughing in public.

(16) Having personal dignity and self-respect.

(17) Exercising good manners in business. Professor Shaler of Harvard once said in "The Citizen" that his own observations show that more young men fail from lack of manners than from any other one cause

My boy, David, was in want and in need of a summer job. There were simply no jobs available and there were many young men applying for each position. He went to apply for a certain construction job. Several young men were ahead of him, but surprisingly he was employed for the job. The employer said later that he decided to hire David when he shook his hand and introduced himself.

It is amazing and appalling how many people go to the bank to borrow money improperly dressed and with a crude kind of manners. Young men should be taught to wear suits and ties and proper clothing, to give their names properly, shake hands, and to present their business articulately.

(18)Behaving properly in public meetings.

(19)Using proper terms, such as "Thank you," "Please." "Your welcome," "Pardon me," "Excuse me," etc.

(20)Answering the door.

These and other manners and courtesies must not be taught once and forgotten. They must be repeated over and over again. They must be rehearsed and practiced until the child responds to each situation by reflex. Someone has said, "No one can disgrace us but ourselves." Carlyle once said, "Good breeding remembers the rights of others; low breeding insists upon one's own rights."

Once because I was kind to an old lady she gave to our church $14,000 for the purchase of two new buses. When I showed her kindness I had no idea she was lady of means.

A family of ten was converted and joined my church because I made it a habit to wave at them as they drove by in a yellow car. Once a lady who was a stranger to me said that my laugh kept her from committing suicide.

In this day when an arrogant, cocky, know-it-all manner seems to be popular, we should start early in the lives of our children in training them to feel properly toward their fellowmen and to express this feeling with proper manners. The word "appropriate" should be stressed over and over again and propriety should be practiced until the child is courteous and proper by instinct so as never to embarrass himself, his family, or his friends in any giver proper and right situation.


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"I am an old-fashioned preacher of the old-time religion, that has warmed this cold world's heart for two thousand years." óBilly Sunday