Uncommon courtesy

Perhaps it's just a sign of modern times, but it appears that rudeness has become the norm rather than the exception. Drive many freeways today and you meet all kinds of drivers - the speeder, the tailgater, the horn honker, or the one who cuts from lane to lane without regard to other motorists. Queuing up in the supermarket can be an experience in seeing who gets in line first. Trying to deal with a bureaucracy - any bureaucracy - or just dealing with the clerk at many businesses can be frustrating because often you feel you're not being treated with respect or kindness. Somehow politeness and good manners in many incidences have gone out the window.

Is it any wonder that President Howard W. Hunter has counseled us to "treat each other with more kindness, more courtesy, more humility and patience and forgiveness. . ."? (From statement to news media June 6, 1994.) That counsel is so appropriate in all our dealings with others, whether it be in Church, in business, in social activities - and especially in our homes.One of the curses of modern times is that everyone has a comeback, a put-down, a harsh word. It's as if we want to let others know that we are "with it," that we can verbally joust with the best heckler in the room or simply show off our smartness or our wit.

How different many are today from the scriptural reminder, "Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue, keepeth his soul from troubles," (Prov. 21:23).

To heed the counsel and challenge from President Hunter, we need to begin with ourselves. A snappy retort may be the worldly response to any given situation these days, but our tongues should not be the cause of pain to others. Treating each other courteously needs to begin early in homes. How family members treat one another says a great deal about how they will treat non-family members. Visit any schoolroom for proof of how young people treat one another.

Parents can set the example for their children by the way they treat each other, and by teaching their children to respect others' property and feelings. A more difficult task is to teach a young person how to turn the other cheek when he or she is insulted or confronted by rudeness. Meekness and a quiet response is not acknowledged by society today as a sign of dignity. The common response on television these days to rudeness is to throw a punch or slam a vehicle into the offending person's car.

Of all the emotions portrayed on television, the temper tantrum seems to be the answer to everything, and children see that if they don't get what they want, getting angry gets results. Unfortunately, this perception has escalated beyond the make-believe of television. To the rudeness of today, society now has added gunfire and other acts of violence in many neighborhoods. People seldom are seen settling conflict peaceably.

The apostle Peter wrote: "Finally be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another . . . be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life; and see good days let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips that they speak no guile." (1 Peter 3:8-10.)

President Ezra Taft Benson counseled a gathering of priesthood brethren "to be full of charity toward all men and especially to the household of faith that is your fellow members in the Church and members of your own family." (London Area Conference June 19-20, 1976.)

A decade later President Benson again reminded priesthood holders that "one who is kind is sympathetic and gentle with others. He is considerate of others' feelings and courteous in his behavior. He has a helpful nature. Kindness pardons others' weakness and faults. Kindness is extended to all - to the aged and the young, to animals, to those low of station as well as the high. (October 1986 general conference.)

A son at his father's funeral remarked how he admired his father's gentleness not only with people but also with animals. "When Father left the ranch," he said, "milk production dropped 20 percent. The owner told me some years later that the cows missed Dad's touch."

How we touch the lives of our fellow beings defines us - or condemns us - as a follower of Jesus Christ. May we always live in such a way that our acts are acts of kindness to all, and not acts of rudeness or disrepect to any.

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