Sunday, April 27, 2008

Objections to rude behavior...

... should match the severity of the transgression, ranging from 'Surely I must have misunderstood you' to 'I beg your pardon!' to 'How dare you!' to 'You will be hearing from my lawyer.' Properly used, however, all of these are perfectly polite responses to highly impolite behavior.

--Miss Manners, A Citizen's Guide to Civility
I love Miss Manners. She is funny and wise, and she says that all manners may be boiled down to one important principle: People are more important than things.

For Christians, though, there is only one response to rude behavior: "Thank you." Because every word spoken to us, every experience we have is a gift, given to us in order to help us to grow. It is convenient for us to be on the receiving end of rude behavior. It is useful to us. What is our faith worth if we can become unsettled by an insensitive remark? What difference can Christ's sacrifice on the cross make to people who can't keep their cool in the face of a mere insult?
Demand not that events should happen as you wish; but wish that they happen as they do happen, and you will go on well (The Enchiridion of Epictetus).
Shall we then become stoics? No! We wish for events to happen as they do happen because they are given to us. Let us give ourselves in return to the One who gives all!


Emily said...

I've been thinking about Miss Manners... and do you think it's safe to say that people are more important than ideas, also?

(I'm thinking yes...)

Suzanne said...

An idea is a thing, too.

Emily said...

One thing I really admire about you is your idea that we should be compassionate toward those who injure us -- it really must be an awful life to be so mean, but the sting is just so great when we're on the receiving end!

Suzanne said...

It's not my idea! I could have never come up with it! It's so counter to anything that makes "sense" -- and the only way to know whether it's true is to try it -- there's no figuring it out logically.

Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."