Monday, December 14, 2009
The Value of Etiquette vs. Sneering at Etiquette
By Mrs. Elsey Whittard
It is the practice with certain people to sneer at the word "etiquette," and to claim that it merely means a foolish pandering to frivolous customs which in themselves have no meaning or use. This is a misapprehension which a little thoughtful consideration will remove.
Certain rules for the government of social, business and political life have been current for generations, and have been handed down with almost unvarying exactitude, in all civilized lands. Such customs or laws, are grounded in good taste, a sense of the fitness of things, kindly feelings, and a natural desire to smooth away the asperities and roughness which would prevail among so many persons of varying tastes and ideas, without a certain set of rules to help to this end.
A Polite Person Admired.
Who is not attracted toward a polite, well-bred person? Who does not carry with them, perhaps through life, the remembrance of some real gentleman or lady with whom they came in contact, at perhaps, an early period of their life? The pleasant memory such a person has left, and the agreeable impression, may unconsciously have had some influence upon their own life, and served as a model for their own behavior when launched into the society which they wish to adorn.
To understand and cultivate the tenets laid down by good society, is not to assume airs, or does not prevent the recognition of the "rough diamond" that sometimes shines out from among those whose early advantages have not been many. Rather it adds a higher polish to that gem, and gives it a higher luster. Who are the gems in your life? Think about it ...
Rules of etiquette have their allotted place among the forces of life, and must be acknowledged as moral agents in refining and making more agreeable our daily intercourse with each other. They are agents for good. They teach us to be more lenient with the various elements which compose society. Life is a sort of a partnership in which each human being has an interest; and the laws of etiquette, well enforced, oblige us to make concessions to the many tastes, prejudices and habits of those we meet in the social circle , at public entertainments, in business relations, or when traveling. If the value of good breeding is in danger of being depreciated, it is only necessary to compare the impression which a gentle, pleasant demeanor leaves upon you, with the gruff abrupt or indifferent carriage of those who affect to despise good manners. If two applicants for a position are equally capable, it is safe to assert that in every case, the agreeable and courteous seeker will obtain it in preference to the other, who is his equal in all respects, save that he is deficient in that suave dignity that charms all.
We are all susceptible to the charm of good manners. Indeed, society could not be maintained save for the usages of etiquette. But true etiquette must spring from a sincere desire to make everyone around us feel at ease; a determination to exercise a thoughtful regard for the feelings of others. It is this patient forbearance with the eccentricities of all, which stamps the true lady or gentleman. It is a duty which each one owes to himself, to acquire certain rules for guidance, which shall make him a welcome guest in any circle.
What Etiquette Is.
Etiquette is not a servile yielding up of one's individuality, or cold formality. It is rather the beautiful frame which is placed around a valuable picture to prevent its being marred or defaced. Etiquette throws a protection around the well-bred, keeping the coarse and disagreeable at a distance, and punishing those who violate her dictates, with banishment from the social circle.
I will discuss manners in my next writing. Until then, study and learn my students, study and learn.
Mrs. Elsey Whittard, December 14, 1891