Continuing our mini-series of looking at the various attributes of love (see our previous examinations of kindness, patience, and forgiveness), today I want to talk about courtesy. To be courteous is to show regard or thought for others (source: Wiktionary.org). It means always putting the interests of another before your own. In the Western culture we grow up being taught that we should look out for ourselves first and get all that we can. I’m afraid our society has become anything but courteous. Those of us who choose to live for Christ, however, choose to live in love; and love is always courteous.
The easiest way to show courtesy to another is to first see them as someone of value. Too often we classify people as being above or beneath us when in truth we are all equal before God. As we start to recognize the value in everyone, we begin to treat them as if they were old friends. You wouldn’t see an old friend on the street and simply walk by; you would smile and greet them enthusiastically. This is the attitude we must develop in order to show courtesy to those we encounter. You never know who you will befriend next. Your simple act of courtesy could blossom into a rich, life-long relationship. Do you see the difference it could make in your outlook if every morning you awoke excited to see whom you would meet that day? I imagine this was what it was like to happen upon Jesus. I envision an easy smile and warm eyes, with a demeanor that said “I’ve been waiting to meet you.” This is how we as followers of Christ should present ourselves to the world. Every venture into the public square should be one anticipated with great excitement.
Being courteous can be difficult when we are tired or stressed out which gives us all the more reason to develop the trait when we are wide awake and feeling our best. Love is more than an emotion; it is also an action and a habit. We all need to develop the habits of love which means we all need to become courteous people. Don’t be in a hurry when conversing with someone. Recognize that most people are hurting or struggling with something in their life. Most just need someone who will listen to them. Our reflexive nature tends to be to rush through a conversation in order to be about our business. Realizing that all people need love, we need to remember that our primary mission is to reflect Christ to others. Spend some time getting to know the person and listen to their heart. You may not become fast friends, but you will leave with the satisfaction of knowing you extended courtesy to another human being, one who is highly valued by God and has limitless potential.
Courtesy should not only be extended outside the home, in fact it begins there. If we do not treat those closest to us with love, it is more than likely we will not demonstrate courtesy to those outside our inner circle. Begin practicing courtesy at home and you will see your relationships blossom like never before. Always compliment someone before permitting yourself to say anything critical. When you are bothered by the actions of another, put yourself in their shoes and understand where they are coming from. Chances are if you will take a moment to understand what they are feeling you will realize they are not intending to upset you.
Extending courtesy every day is a habit that will make you a very attractive person and win many friends. Your words and actions should always show that you value the other person and see them as someone of great worth. When you are tempted to make a rude or sarcastic comment, pause and consider the motivation of the other person; try to understand what they are going through and recognize that are struggling and hurting – just like you. Picture Christ in the room with you as you interact with other people; check your responses against what you would imagine His to be. As you learn the art of courtesy you will find yourself becoming a more loving person in noticeable and tangible ways. You will begin to look like Jesus as you approach others with extended arms and an open heart. Love will uncontrollably spill out of you with the unstoppable force of Christ.