Taking Steps Toward Leadership–Courteous

Courteous: to have  manners suitable for court.  The court was the large open space A. in front of the meeting house or tabernacle in the Jewish faith, or B. in front of the ruler’s house/palace.  Though the word ‘court’ didn’t come into play until the 1100’s, and meant large farmyard or field, the concept is ancient.  It was a gathering place for important events.  It was a place where the men went to discuss the Law and the Prophets and teachings of the books of Moses and the Word of God.  It was a place where policy decisions were made, and jockeying for positions of power by those close to the ruler determined the fate of the members of the court and the future of the government.  It was a very formal gathering, so there were proscribed manners of dress, behavior, and speech.  If you look at eastern culture, you would see that the bows made in greeting were not just bows.  It could be a head nod or a deep bow depending on the relative status of the people involved.  In the time of Louis XIV, it even became popular to speak with a lisp and wear elaborate and costly garments and wigs.  Though Louis the XIV reigned in 1643, his influence on culture, dress, war, and politics was evident as late as the American Revolution and the French Revolution that followed it.  It was in his courts that the code of conduct became formalized in the western world.  The main focus of the behavior was paying the utmost respect to other members of court.  Bows, manner of speech, and a formal behavior that indicated nobility was required of everyone in court.  To be courteous then, was to show your own nobility in the manner you presented yourself, and to show the utmost respect to those with whom you came in contact.

Etiquette was the “ticket” or memo that had the proscribed behaviors written down.  Everyone who was present at court had the same expectations of behavior since these behaviors were written down for them!  You dressed formally according to your station and to show respect for the ruler.  You did not use crass or vulgar speech, you did not behave like a villein-a common villager.  You showed respect to all in the court.  What does courteous mean now?  Behavior fit for a gentleman or lady is refined speech, showing respect for those around you as well as yourself, consideration for others.  Holding a chair at a dinner table is a courtesy.  Holding a door for someone else is a courtesy.  Speaking with respect and not interrupting is a courtesy.  The effect is that it makes those with whom you interact feel special.  Everyone wants to feel special and unfortunately, most people don’t get that feeling from their work, or from the people with whom they associate.

What kind of impact could you have on someone if you treated them as if they were special?  Would they reach farther?  Would they try harder?  Would they behave better toward others?  Would they, in turn, treat the people in their lives as if they were special as well?  But…what if they’re not special?  In the movie, “The Incredibles,” the young son asks what’s wrong with being special.  His mother sighs and says, “Everyone is special,” to which he replies “which means no one is.”  Special has taken on a different meaning.  In one case, special means what retarded used to be.  Retard means to slow.  A retarded person is someone who is slow.  Somehow that became derogatory and they use the word “special” to make them feel better and have people change their attitude toward these people. But what does “special” mean?  Special means a characteristic of a species.  What?! Yes.  So we are Homo Sapiens, thinking man.  Our specialty is thinking.  As many people as there are in the world, there are really no 2 people that think alike.  Every person has at least one talent or proficiency unique to them.  Some have athletic abilities, some have mathematical abilities, some can think on philosophy, and others can look at 2 disparate objects and see how they would work together.  But no one sees or experiences life exactly the same way, and no one can divorce him/herself from their culture and their environment and that becomes intimately infused into their speciality.  So the “special” designation mentioned in the movie was too small.  Dash wanted to believe that his special power made him superior to the average and ordinary children around him.  Special does not equal extraordinary.  This means that in treating someone as special, you are recognizing the unique qualities and talents that make beings members of the group, thinking man.  You treat everyone as if they had the answers to life’s persistent questions.  You show respect and appreciation.

To review:

  • You don’t have to be IN court to act in a courtly manner.
  • When you’re courteous, you make people feel special
  • When people feel special, they act better toward their fellow Homo Sapiens
  • When you treat people as if they were precious to you and special, they treat you differently as well.

Be Courteous then, and treat people well.

Read:  “Pushing up People” by Williams

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