Sunday, August 25, 2013

Replacing Toxicity with Privacy and Manners

In France it is necessary, at the very least, to greet people with a polite, "Bonjour."  Bonjour Madame or Bonjour Monsieur is preferable. When I went to Paris with my parents on the State Farm trip my dad had won with his awesomeness, the company coached us on some basic French words and phrases. We should not expect the French to respond well to our presumption that they should speak in English. It was crucial that we show respect by attempting to speak their language, even if poorly. A simple bonjour would go a long way. And you know what? I did not experience the supposed rudeness of the French on our trip. In fact, in one store I visited on the Champs Elysses, I was greeted with, "Oh, I like you!" Yes, it was a man.

I know many people in the U.S. who have lovely manners. They say, "Good morning," and enquire about my well being. They say please and thank you. They write real letters and wrap presents with care. When they come to stay at my home, they bring me a hostess gift. Then there is everyone else. There is a gross absence of manners and decorum in modern society, most especially in regard to internet and cell phone communication. Case in point. I recently posted a link to favorable homeschooling statistics on my Facebook wall. As anyone who homeschools knows, we need all the encouragement we can get, and it is imperative to celebrate our freedom, our successes, the joie de vivre of this lifestyle.

A cousin wrote a very lengthy response which was in no way rude or disrespectful, yet it opened the door to disagreement. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But there was no indication in her post that she personally knew me, that we were actually related. No warmth, not even a simple greeting to indicate that we were both persons. While I was cordial, my response was likewise impersonal, taking my cue from her. I missed an opportunity to role model good manners. Internet conversations can easily get messy because they intrinsically lack tone. One must be very careful to remember that the person on the other end is breathing. My cousin's father joined the conversation, making it clear that he did indeed know me, but with no trace of evidence that I am a person for whom he cares. Facebook has ruined our relationship. But does it have to be that way? Might a simple return to manners solve much of the problem?

Seeing that, as usual, a civil, respectful conversation was not to be had, I chose to set a boundary and clearly state that the conversation would not continue on my personal space. That boundary was not respected. I felt that my serenity was at stake, but also that I was at risk for sinking to a lower level than befits the person of class and grace that I aspire to be. If your heart is pounding in your chest and your stomach is churning when you are in the presence of a person or during whatever type of communication, and this is a recurring incidence, it is time to clean house. This is toxic. It is clutter. It is so not la joie de vivre.

Being polite and having manners does not mean being a doormat! It does not mean shying away from expressing yourself. Do you have a deep-seated need to be liked by everyone, to have everyone's constant approval? It will not happen, no matter what. Let go of trying to fix things over which you have no control. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. You can count on people to be exactly who they are.

You have a right to privacy. You have the right to decline an invitation to ride the crazy-making merry-go-round. Just say no as kindly as you can. Non, merci. There is no room in my life for frenemies. The time wasted on that long winded FB conversation can never be retrieved. It ruined my digestion of an excellent dinner. The next time you feel yourself drawn into drama, ask yourself what you could be doing instead. Perhaps savoring a piece of dark chocolate, dancing with your child, making love, baking bread, making art. Praying, singing, writing a letter to your best friend. Let us endeavor to always be exquisite in our manners and to never, ever be gauche. Only hang clean laundry on the line, and don't let anyone with messy hands into your yard. We can love people without allowing them to leave buffalo chips on our property. After all, you are a woman, or a man, of repose.


  1. This is so excellent. I got into a heated debate on abortion over FB once and I finally got so frustrated I prayed, God what can I say to get this person to understand. What should I do?

    And my 2 year-old came over and asked to play something and I realized I was missing the important part. My roll and vocation was mother, not going back and forth for an hour arguing over social media. I had a heart to mold right in front of me, one that was far more impressionable. <3 wise words!

  2. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Love your profile name!! I appreciate your story--wise words for me to remember as well. We miss the good stuff when we are distracted by the world. I am now grateful for the FB ordeal, because it reminds me to keep my focus on what's important. God can use anything for His good purpose. This post has really resonated with people, and for that I rejoice!


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