The best way a person can learn propriety and manners is within the home. When parents model consideration, children see what it looks like in a practical way. It’s trite, but true: actions speak louder than words. Sometimes our actions cancel our well-intentioned words.
The Bible says, “charity…doth not behave itself unseemly…” (I Corinthians 13:5). In other words, love is mannerly, considerate and appropriate. Love motivates me to be courteous to people, even when they are rude or inconsiderate to me. Love isn’t rough, harsh or obnoxious.
Recently I told one of my children to do something for me and immediately when I said it I knew that I was wrong. I wasn’t upset with them or in a bad mood, but I was not courteous or considerate. Rather than making a kind request for help it came out as a demand. I was abrupt and rude with them – even though I didn’t mean to be.
I said, “I’m sorry, it sounded like I demanded that you do that and it came across as rude. I care more for you than that”. And then I made the exact same request, but I prefaced it with the word, “Please”. A very small correction, but a major difference to the person to whom I was speaking.
I don’t want my wife or children to see me as a bully in the way I treat them. (By the way, women are not above “being unseemly” in their words and actions in the family).
Let me suggest three ways to encourage your becoming a loving person that speaks with consideration rather than rudeness. The result is that your family and friends will feel loved rather than just hearing it from your words.
First, be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to the people in your present environment. Be alert. Consideration is not for lazy people. Being attentive is a lot of work. That’s why so few people do it.
Laziness and selfishness cause us to expect everyone around us to conform to our personality and way of doing things. The result is that we drift into being inconsiderate.
Christians are commanded to be attentive to those around them. The Bible says in Hebrews 10:24 – “…let us consider one another”. The word “consider” means “to observe carefully and fully with the purpose of perception and discovery”. It has the idea of studying something rather than offering a casual, indifferent glance.
This is compassion in action. Rude people are not compassionate people. They are self-centered, self-focused and have little to no interest in the needs and pains of others. They don’t love people, they love themselves. How sad (and destructive) that we can treat the people we love the best this way.
A second way to cultivate consideration is to look for needs that need to be filled. This enables me to provide help that is specific and customized and the person knows that I cared enough to notice or listen.
Simply put, we cannot be considerate unless we first consider. This means I have eyes to see needs. Awareness births consideration.
It’s not my job to straighten everyone out, but I am to rejoice with them and hurt with them. I have to pay attention to know what they need at the moment.
When we consider where people are and their need it will change our response. The Bible states, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep”. (Romans 12:15)
I love to be silly and laugh and have fun. However, when my child is hurting from a disappointment or heartache it’s not just inappropriate to do so, but it is unloving. If my wife is happy about something that happened in her day and I allow my tough day to dampen her spirit, that is unloving and inconsiderate of me.
People know we love them when we identify with their needs and minister to them in a special, customized way. We won’t do this if we aren’t paying attention.
Years ago our church was struggling financially and of necessity we were counting our shekels carefully as a family. A dear friend of mine asked if he could take me out to lunch on my birthday. Before lunch we pulled in front of several stores, but there was no restaurant in sight.
I wondered what we were doing, but since I am a pastor and counsel frequently I thought he wanted to talk. He didn’t say anything for about five seconds and then said, “Rick, it’s your birthday and we’ll go eat in a while, but I wanted to get you something today that you really need”. He pointed to one of the stores, a place that housed an optometrist. He continued, “I know you have needed new glasses for a while and the Lord burdened my heart to get them for you”.
To be honest, at first I was very uncomfortable because I knew how much a vision test, prescription lenses, and glasses cost. I went in with this humble man who was so excited to help me in this way. It was the perfect gift; he met a specific need. My friend has moved away, but to this day I never drive by that office without thinking of our friendship and his kindness to me.
Common courtesies are based on simple consideration. If I love my family I show it through my consideration and manners. Saying “thank you”, “excuse me”, and “may I” are words that rude people do not say often or say sincerely. Sadly, the longer we are around someone the more we take them for granted, and the less we honor and value them (Mark 6:4). This is most true in our families.
A third way to develop consideration is to ask God to fill you with His Spirit. Until we allow God to rule in our hearts we will never consider others, but “behave unseemly” and selfishly.
It’s no accident that the first quality seen in one’s life when God is in charge is love (Galatians 5:22). Only the Spirit of God can enable me to love those that are unlovely. This is supernatural behavior. Being rude to those that are rude is natural and normal.
Adrian Rogers said, “The Christian life is not difficult, it is impossible”. When we love the unlovely it is not natural, but supernatural. We must let Jesus Christ love them through us.
As you daily spend time alone with the Lord in His Word He will speak to you. If you listen He will guide and direct you each moment of the day. As we do that, we become loving and cease from our selfish and inconsiderate ways.
“The people who make a difference are not the ones with the credentials, but the ones with the concern”. (Max Lucado