Politeness, like every thing else in one’s character and conduct, should be based on Christian principle. “Honor all men,” says the apostle. This is the spring of good manners; it strikes at the very root of selfishness: it is the principle by which we render to all ranks and ages their due. A respect for your fellow-beings—a reverence for them as God’s creatures and our brethren—will inspire that delicate regard for their rights and feelings, of which good manners is the sign.
If you have truth—not the truth of policy, but religious truth—your manners will be sincere. They will have earnestness, simplicity, and frankness—the best qualities of manners. They will be free from assumption, pretense, affectation, flattery, and obsequiousness, which are all incompatible with sincerity. If you have sincerity, you will choose to appear no other, nor better, than you are—to dwell in a true light.
We have often insisted, that the Bible contains the only rules necessary in the study of politeness. Or, in other words, that those who are the real disciples of Christ, cannot fail to be truly polite. Thus, let the young woman who would possess genuine politeness, take her lessons, not in the school of a hollow, heartless world, but in the school of Jesus Christ. I know this counsel may be despised by the gay and fashionable; but it will be much easier to despise it, than to prove it to be incorrect.
“Always think of the good of the whole, rather than of your own individual convenience,” says Mrs. Farrar, in her Young Ladies’ Friend. A most excellent rule; and one to which we solicit your earnest attention. She who is thoroughly imbued with the Gospel spirit, will not fail to do so. It was what our Savior did continually; and I have no doubt that his was the purest specimen of good manners, or genuine politeness, the world has ever witnessed; the politeness of Abraham himself not excepted.
Every thing really valuable is sure to be counterfeited. This applies not only to money, medicine, religion, and virtue, but even to politeness. We see in society the truly polite and the falsely polite; and, although all cannot explain, all can feel the difference. While we respect the one, we despise the other. Men hate to be cheated. An attempt to deceive us, is an insult to our understandings and an affront to our morals. The pretender to politeness is a cheat. He tries to palm off the base for the genuine; and, although he may deceive the vulgar, he cannot overreach the cultivated. True politeness springs from right feelings; it is a good heart, manifesting itself in an agreeable life; it is a just regard for the rights and happiness of others in small things; it is the expression of true and generous sentiments in a graceful form of words; it regards neatness and propriety in dress, as something due to society, and avoids tawdriness in apparel, as offensive to good taste; it avoids selfishness in conduct and roughness in manners: hence, a polite person is called a gentle man. True politeness is the smoothness of a refined mind and the tact of a kind heart.