Friday, October 15, 2010

When It Comes to Manners, Start with The Golden Rule

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Several years ago, a older gentleman ran into me, totaling our van. (Fortunately, no one was hurt.) His insurance company proved to be horrible to deal with, and the injustice of it was very frustrating, considering that police records and his own admission revealed that he was at fault. We had been planning an outing for my son David’s birthday that involved an overnight trip and his taking along a friend, and the car that the insurance company provided did not seat as many people as our van did, so there weren't enough seats for us to all ride together. Despite my request for a different car that more aptly suited our family, they refused to budge.

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I called the insurance company like a momma bear, with a speech all prepared for the agent who was single-handedly ruining my son’s birthday, and when he didn't answer, I unleashed on his answering machine. When I finished my tirade and hung up the phone, my children, 11, 9, and 6 at the time, began to applaud.
I relished their praise for just a few seconds before I heard an annoying voice echoing in my head: “We need to be sunshine for people today. You never know what kind of a day people are having, and we need to show Jesus through our loving attitudes.” That Pollyanna, singsong voice was my own—repeating something I regularly said to my children (the ones who had been applauding LOL), but something I obviously didn’t take to heart myself.

“All right, kids,” I began, “that might have felt good for a few minutes, but the Lord is showing me that I was not sunshine to that insurance agent. I was wrong in what I said, and I am going to have to apologize.” So I called the guy back, and once again getting his voice mail, I began to apologize for my rant. “I don’t know what kind of day you’re having, but I know that I didn’t help any. And I know that you are not trying to ruin my 9-year-old’s birthday.” A few hours later, that agent called me back, and he told me that my call (the second call) had actually made his day. Amazing. God doesn't waste anything.

When it comes to manners, our children’s social skills rest on what they see modeled before them. If we treat people the way we want to be treated, we will see our children mimicking that. Their eyes are constantly on us in the microcosm of our homes as we go about life’s daily routines. This is where the most important teaching of social skills begins.

Good manners are very simply stated by Christ in what is commonly known as the Golden Rule. “Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them” (Luke 6:31). This requires that we moms learn to carefully think of how we would want to be treated by others, whether we are sitting in traffic, talking to a telemarketer, or responding to a sassy child. The Golden Rule is Christ’s take on social skills. Filled with grace and wisdom, it is a simple model for behavior, but it is not an easy one!

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