Monday, May 19, 2008

A Habit Of Rudeness

I am frustrated. It seems that everywhere I turn, someone is rude. In fact, I think I must have a sign around my neck that is invisible to me, but visible by everyone else, that says "Be As Rude To Me As You Possibly Can".

Let me give you a prime example of what I mean. Last week my family and I decided to grab some dinner out. We were coming from different directions, so we drove two cars. My husband and kids were already at the restaurant, and I arrived a few minutes later. Parking was scarce, so when I spotted an open space, I stopped the car. There was a woman standing beside this empty space, standing outside of her car but leaning into the open door speaking with the driver. I was really in no hurry, so I patiently waited for her to finish her conversation, checked my phone messages, cleaned out a few pieces of trash in my car, and then looked up to see if it was clear to park yet. She then slammed her car door, moved to the other side of the open parking space, and began making exaggerated gestures in my direction, summoning that it was okay for me to park. Then she began mocking the way I had rested my head on my hand while I was patiently waiting for her to move, and yelling at me. Honestly, I was in shock, and wondering what in the world had I done to this woman? I had not beeped my horn, made ugly or impatient gestures at her, or yelled out the window to ask her to hurry up. I was completely confused why she was acting this way. I parked and got out of my car, closed the door, and began walking towards the restaurant, and she proceeded to yell curse words at me across the parking lot, call me an ugly name several times, and make a few physical threats. I simply made sure not to make eye contact and walk as quickly as I could towards the safety of the restaurant where other people were around. This woman scared me.

A few days ago I had stopped in CVS to get a few items, and upon leaving the parking lot, and since there were no cars behind me, I slowed down to answer a phone call. While talking on the phone, I was unaware that someone had exited the store and apparently I was blocking their car from leaving their parking space. This man proceeded to get out of the car, stand in front of my window, cuss, and flail his arms around in the air! I apologized and moved on, but was in awe of his rudeness (and the fact that I seem to attract these people somehow! )

Obviously these were extreme situations, but things like this happen every day to people all over America. It seems that today's society is caught up in a habit of rudeness, and people seem to feel fully justified in treating others rudely.

Someone cuts you off in traffic, practically causing you to wreck, then makes rude gestures to you as if you have done something wrong. The store clerk hates her job, so she treats her customers as a major inconvenience in her day. The drive-thru clerk can't see you when you are ordering, therefore no need to be polite or friendly. The boss knows you are required to be subordinate to him or her, so feels no obligation to treat you with simple consideration. The woman who bumps into you at the mall looks at you like you have just assaulted her and mumbles some words under her breath as she huffs off. The receptionist at your child's school is annoyed that you even called, much less the fact that she had to take a message. I could go on, but I"ll stop there.

What is happening to our world? What happened to the days when people said please and thank you, excuse me and no problem? What happened to the days when people opened the door for you, instead of knocking you out of the way to get through the door first? What happened to general kindness and consideration of others? What happened to patience and wearing a smile?

I think we are all guilty, myself included, of not making a conscious effort to be polite, friendly, kind and considerate of those around us. I have found that wearing a smile, not only on our face, but also in our heart, is a choice we have to make each day. But when the rest of the world seems to be in a bad mood every day, and then they inflict their bad moods on you and me, how do we handle that rudeness in a Christian manner? When our blood pressure is rising and anger is pursed at our lips, how do we keep from acting like everyone else?

Jesus is the only answer. Despite criticism, harsh treatment, judgement, hatred, insults, etc., Jesus never responded in a rude manner. Oh how I wish I could be more like Him, but at least we have His words to remind us of how He desires for our hearts to be full of love towards one another. Here are a few great verses to memorize into your heart so that you can call on these scriptural truths when someone is treating you rudely:

Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger"
Psalm 141:3 “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
Proverbs 10:32 “The lips of the righteous know what is fitting, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse."

It is not easy to be polite to others, when they are not being polite to you. I have heard preachers tell stories of fighting rudeness with kindness, and how it often turns people around. For example, a grumpy store clerk was not speaking to anyone in line as she rung up their items. She was short and curt with anyone who spoke to her. But when someone asked her how her day was going, if she was enjoying the weather, and complimented her appearance, her entire demeanor changed. She smiled and engaged in the conversation, then told the customer to have a nice day as he left the store.

Did she have a bad attitude, or did the people in line? The world may never know. But this is a great test for us all to take. We should ask ourselves.....is someone being rude to me, because I had a rude look on my face, even inadvertently? Is someone being rude to me, because I was not very polite to them? Is there something I should change about my own attitude and behavior that would deter rudeness being fired in my direction? Would a stranger that I come in contact with know that I am a Christian based solely on my brief interaction with them? If I am honest with myself, would I have to say that I too have gotten caught up in society's habit of rudeness? Hmmmmmm.

It takes a true Christian heart to be kind to someone, when they so obviously are not giving you that same courtesy. But isn't that what God calls us to do? To set ourselves apart from the world, to be different, to act in gentle love, and keep watch over our lips. To have an attitude of love, and a smile on our face, despite our circumstances.

Yes all that is true, but we all know that it is not easy. It takes practice. I need practice. Maybe that is why God is bringing so many rude people into my path. Is it possible that God is working on my heart, and trying to soften my heart towards people who have bitterness in their hearts? Is it possible God has a purpose for me by subjecting me to so many bizarre situations of rudeness? Without a doubt. I have come to believe that whenever something continues to happen over and over, then God is at work on something in my life. He knows our weak areas, and it is His job as our Father to help us see those weaknesses, and gain strength in areas of our life where we are struggling.

So far, I am not sure that I have pleased God with my responses or actions to rude people, but I am committed to turning my attitude around. The next time a person is rude to me, instead of entertaining thoughts of vengeance, turning away or giving them a blank stare of disbelief, I am going to say a quick prayer, and ask God to help me respond in kindness. Even if the person does not reciprocate in kindness, at least I will be able to walk away knowing that I responded in a Christian manner. It only takes a spark to get a fire going.... maybe my spark will make a difference.

Have you ever seen that insurance commercial where someone does something kind for a total stranger, then that person does something kind for another stranger, then that person does something kind to someone else, etc., etc.? There is a domino affect of kindness, all as a result of one person's small act of kindness. It is a wonderful commercial with a great lesson. If we spread kindness, even through one interaction with a stranger, and leave a sweet fragrance of our presence on the lives of those we come in contact with, maybe they will share that fragrance with someone else. Maybe just responding one time in kindness to a rude comment or grumpy look, will transfer kindness to many people throughout the day.

It's worth a try, and despite the outcome, I know God will reward us for our obedience to live in His ways. It only takes one person to make a difference, and with God on our side, who can be against us? Will it be easy? Nope. Will it be worth it? Absolutely. Make someone smile today! :)

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15 comments:

Chill Pastor said...

There are numerous things about our culture that "drive me nuts" as well...being rude is at the top of the list.

You hit the nail on the head with "Jesus being the answer!" All of our faults, mistakes, failures, etc. should bring us back to him for forgiveness and a way to overcome our short comings.

Great thoughts...You are such a blessing to many folks!!!

chillpastor

Wanita said...

What you say is so true. So many people are rude, and responding with kindness is difficult.

Thanks for the reminder that Jesus can give us the strength we need to respond in kindness when someone treats us rudely for no apparent reason.

Anonymous said...

I read your post on Proverbs 31 about the texting issues with our children today. My middle school son has a phone and I frequently read his text's. Never have I seen anything off color or rude. I know my son's friends and he knows how to behave himself. Maybe you should take a second look at your children's friends?

Lindsay said...

That was an awesome and inspiring blog. I was led to it by the daily encouragement emails I subscribed to receive. I always thought that when people were rude to me, the devil was trying to steal my joy and peace. I like how you said that God is working on our hearts when we encounter rude or unfriendly people. I hope many people read your blog because its so easy for Christians to be kind to those who are loving and easy to get along with, but it's entirely different to love the ones who curse you or mock you.
Jesus is my hope and strength in dealing with the unlovely people in our world. Thank you for letting God work through you to teach others to be more like Him.

Lindsay

Anonymous said...

I was lead to your blog through the Proverbs 31 daily devotion. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading both. Your thoughts are truly insightful.

I have a middle school daughter, and she claims that "everyone" has a cell phone. She feels left out, etc. My husband and I don't think it is a "necessity" for her to have one. We haven't caved in.

Your entry about rudeness was right on point as well. I often find myself asking, "What is wrong with people?" Of course, it doesn't take much to figure out.

Thank you again for your insight! I've bookmarked your blog so that I can read it everyday.

God Bless You,

Michelle

Laurie Ann said...

Jesus is definitely the answer for combatting or handling the rudeness in today's culture. Thank you so much for this encouraging and inspiring post. This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately, and now I have some excellent guidance and reaffirmation to go on.

Sabrina said...

Tracie-
Thank you for your insight in today’s devotion "To Text or Not to Text." I have two grade scholars (so I have not entered this problem, yet). But my husband and I met 15 years ago in high school and I am reminded of the time my mother read my diary without my knowing it. I was hurt and disappointed that she would choose to snoop rather than ask me herself about my relationship. We have a wonderful mother/daughter friendship now, but I vowed to never resort to snooping as a mother. Not all relationships are the same, and as a mother you may be surprised at how truthful your child will be. Thanks again for the opportunity to reflect on such an important issue as mothers.
-Sabrina

nothingcanseparateme said...

I JUST came from Wal-Mart where the cashier and the door greeter were very rude!!! I am a friendly person and was making conversation with them--receiving one word answers and the two of them rolling their eyes at one another. As I left I wished them both a good day and as I walked away the were laughing at me and said something to the affect of "what's with her." What is this world coming too when you are mocked for wishing someone a good day?????

Charlene Kidd said...

Tracie,
Thanks so much for that great reminder. I too seem to attract rude people. I always think it is because of who I am in Christ, that the enemy tries to trick me up with these unsolicited events. I too need to choose my response prayerfully.
Blessings,

Tammy Nischan said...

Thank you for your great thoughts! God bless you!
Love, Tammy

avigon said...

This was wonderful and timely for me. I read your blog to my third grade students and we talked about how to give a polite response in the face of rudeness.

This morning, one of my favorite comic strips, One Big Happy, seemed to chime right in.

http://news.yahoo.com/comics/uclickcomics/20080521/cx_crobh_uc/crobh20080521

Hon's Daddy said...

Just discovered your blog from a friend. Very good. Thank you.

My wife and I just returned from China. While we were there we both observed how polite they are to us and each other. We have become an increasingly rude society, and could learn much from the Chinese in this regard. The driving is terrifying, but they never seem to get angry!

Tammy Nischan said...

Thanks for the reminder that as parents we sometimes have to take the risk of "weirdness" in order to keep our children a "peculiar people!" Being set apart requires setting ourselves apart to a certain degree!

Love, Tammy

Tammy Nischan said...

Tracie,

Loved your thoughts on texting and parenting!

Thanks for reminding me that being weird isn't always a bad thing!!!

Love, Tammy

Lysa TerKeurst said...

I'm with you sister!

And I finally got you added in my Blogroll... have mercy... please know that the reason it took a while is because I am so computer challenged. Not because I was trying to be rude. Forgive me... despite my shortcomings.

And yes, I totally agree that arm waving, unkind words speaking people are abundant these days.

Oh Lord, that we might be a light.

Love your heart!!!