Thursday, April 14, 2016

Social Self-Defense:
Manners and Customs

It is often said that the best defense is a good offense. The same holds true for the defense of one’s self.

I consider myself very fortunate to be the decedent of women who served others. Many times they did so in the homes of the elite. From them, I learned that the children of their employers were taught to have self-control.

“When you can control your own self,” they are told, “No one can control you and you will always be in control of those who cannot control themselves.”

My mother shared the decades of lessons for behavior that she’d witnessed in the homes of those she’d served.

My mother and siblings are all said to have a presence about them. So much so, that others often assume that we’d had a privileged upbringing. (That is until I laugh out loud. Sometimes, I wish I could be daintier but then I think never mind.)

“Good manners will take you all over the word, and kindness will open hearts.”

My mother’s words have been passed down to my children and I hope that they pass them down to theirs.

Our fast paced life and technology have moved us far beyond the 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, which George Washington hand-copied from his studies with French Jesuits.

We’ve become a bastion of passive aggressiveness hidden behind screen names and a “right” to comment. 

We will ask anyone anything and become “the bullied” victim if the query is returned with the intention with which it is given.

Our abbreviated text messages are a poor substitute for polite conversation and “Was Up” actually has meaning.

Manners and customs are not just the glue for the maintenance of the history and heritage of a society, I believe that when properly adhered to, they really do open doors.

Social Self-Defense is about guarding and protecting one’s own soul/psyche. The way we conduct ourselves around others determines what sticks to our being, who we become and what we can contribute.

Manners are defined as polite or well-bred social behavior, while customs are the usual way of acting in a given circumstance.

Which manners and customs have you learned but abandoned?

How and which would you reincorporate?

Your customs may not be mine and mine are probably not yours. Whenever you travel outside of the county or even your own home, watch and learn the customs of that place. When appropriate, adopt them. And always, guard your own spirit with the manners of one who understands that the world is truly your oyster, but you still should know which knife to use.

Be you, be well, be soul-secure.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

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