I really hate when someone tries to act all superior. They think they say something really clever (they don’t, they just THINK they do) and then you respond and the only retort they can come up with is to be condescending. Yeah, that’s not funny. That is ignorant. And lame. But it does piss me off so maybe their mission has been accomplished. I don’t know. The only mission I see they accomplished is that they made as ass out of themselves, made me dislike them more than I did before, and shown that they have NO idea how to be funny, have a conversation or at the very least be gracious, courteous or polite. Bad upbringing or some sort of personality disorder..I don’t know…or care for that matter.
So, let’s define polite. The dictionary says: marked by an appearance of consideration, tact, deference, or courtesy. What stands out for me in that sentence is tact. Being tactful means: a keen sense of what to do or say in order to maintain good relations with others or avoid offense. I love that idea. I strive to be a tactful person. I was raised to be tactful. To be welcoming to all, to treat everyone as I would like to be treated. Now, that did get me into some trouble. I wound up allowing people to use me, hurt me and take advantage of me. All in the name of being tactful. Even when faced with people who had no idea what being polite was or lacking all tact, I received them with full on cheer and good attitude. I still do. The difference today being that I do not feel the need to keep these people in my life purposely. I can let them slide right back out of my life the same way they slithered in. No harm no foul and I still feel good about the way I behaved.
Now, courteous means: marked by respect for and consideration of others. No where does it say respect and consideration of others whom I like….just others. So, I am expected to be courteous to others whom I interact with daily. Others meaning other beings on this planet. What a lovely idea. Just imagine if everyone were courteous. There would be no more feeling inferior, which is the root cause of jealousy. If we treated everyone we came into contact with as an equal, deserving of the same respect and kindness that we know we deserve, this world would be a much nicer place.
So, which comes first? The asshole or the ass? I mean, do we pick out someone we do not like and then treat them like dirt, or do we feel like dirt and then treat others that way simply in an effort to feel better about ourselves? In my experience, it is the latter. If I am treating someone in a sub-human way it is because there is something very wrong with my personal view of myself and my life. Being arrogant means that I would refuse that notion and tell you, myself and all who would listen, that the issue really truly is with the other person. Don’t take that sentence literally. I have been around long enough, had enough “stuff” happen to me in my life that any ounce of arrogance was washed away long ago. I face life with humility.
None of this means that I am going to like everyone I come into contact with. I don’t. There are many people I do not like, many who do not like me (shocking right?). Some I have gotten to know and decided that I do not like them, some I have only had a brief encounter with and I know that I do not like them in that 5 minute span of time. Just a feeling I get. We all have that feeling. Sometimes we choose to ignore that feeling or sometimes we have to ignore that feeling for the sake of being polite and courteous. It’s called “living in a functioning society”. We all do it. It is necessary.
Which brings me to graciousness. This one is my favorite. It means: markedly pleasant and easy in social intercourse. No, not sexual intercourse you perv…intercourse meaning interaction with society. The synonyms for being gracious are : cordial, affable, genial, sociable. Those are some beautiful words. I don’t achieve graciousness daily, but I do try. It is hard to be gracious to someone who is not gracious to you. When someone makes it clear to you that they do not like, respect or enjoy you, how can you possibly be expected to treat them with love? Impossible right? Nope. It might be difficult at first, but if that person is going to be a lasting part of your life, it is worth it. Not because of how it will make them feel, not because then you will look like the bigger person, not because then you will be written into the will. No, because it will make you feel good about being you. And in the end, as in the beginning, it is all about you.
So, when I have to be gracious, courteous and polite in the light of someone’s disrespect, ignorance or arrogance, although it is difficult, it is so worth it. I have to brag on my dad for a second because he had this down to a T. He was well liked, respected and loved by many. He made people feel like they were the most important person in the entire world. And to him, in that moment he spent with them, they were. He was best friends with multi millionaires and cleaning ladies. They were all the same in his book. He was a wonderful teacher of how to be truly gracious. Not fake, not just going through the motions, but really appreciating everyone he came into contact with simply because they were a human being sharing the planet with him. A love for life and for the people living it.
His partner was overwhelmed with my dad’s ability to walk into a restaurant he had never been in before and walk out with at least 5 new friends. Jim called him an outrageous flirt. And because of this special quality, my dad enjoyed life to the fullest.
I want that. I want to enjoy, not resent, others. I will never have what someone else does, I don’t want it. My life is unique and exactly the way it should be. The only competition I feel is with myself to be the best I can be. I have no desire to be as successful or popular or rich or as well-known as the guy next door. I don’t want fame, power or superficial success. I want the real deal and I know that it is all within me and how I treat others. I don’t do graciousness, politeness or courteousness perfectly. I am clumsy sometimes. But it is my goal and I will continue to strive for it.
My friend Lynn broke it down like this : Polite- doing something because one expects it whether you mean it or not
Courteous- doing so because you would want it done to you
Gracious- doing so whether someone expects it or not because it comes from your heart. I think that is brilliant. I’m not going to go out hugging strangers or handing out flowers at the airport…but I strengthen my resolve to be polite, courteous and gracious because it doesn’t cost me a dime and the rewards are priceless. No reason not to, unless you are resolved to being an asshole for the rest of your life, in which case, I will smile and nod and keep on walking. Really, what have you got to lose?