I have some issues with politeness. I have had these issues for years and years.
Part of my problem is just that I am a bit socially-retarded. I’m behind on learning all of those niceties of the involved social circle, having chosen to stay protected behind an invisible wall. The ladies of Edith Wharton novels – those vicious, scheming society matrons – would have eaten me for breakfast.
Because of this, I am clumsy with the social intricacies. I lack follow-up. I wait to be invited. I don’t call just to chat. I’m kind of a crappy friend, really. (I’m a slightly better “best friend”, as my concern for the people who I let fully into the circle of trust keeps me more engaged. But that’s another topic.)
My main problem with politeness, however, is in its untruth.
For years, I have struggled with giving the polite response AS OPPOSED TO the honest answer. When you think about it, often, the two are not in sync. Polite fictions. White lies. Whatever you want to call it, when the words ring false, I feel hollow and terrible.
I can’t lie anymore. I used to be really good at it, but I am actually pretty proud to say that I am no longer. In fact, I often feel that I physically can’t lie. The words die in my throat before my mouth even considers opening to say them. And so I don’t. I tell my truth, or I don’t speak.
This is not to say that I am cruel. I don’t speak a negative opinion on things that cannot be changed, and I don’t say things that are deliberately hurtful. Doesn’t mean I don’t step on some feelings, though. I hope people realize that it’s never with malicious intent, but it’s not their job to excuse me. I’m responsible for the consequences of what comes out of my mouth, and if something went wrong, I have to make that right.
What strikes me now is that politeness is not just a façade. It’s not just the couching of hard truths in pretty guises, or the complete fabrication of an opinion or an image. While I still do feel that it’s often used that way, that’s a matter of intent. Of people pretending to be what they’re not.
When used by someone with a purer heart, good manners are simply a manner of showing kindness to others.
This raises questions about my natural goodness, since I’d rather give a difficult truth than a benevolent fiction.
But, again, that’s another topic.