Synopses & Reviews
Chapter OneLove your neighbor as yourself,
and do unto others as you would have them do unto you
-- Galatians 5:14/A sympathetic Manner
You may not think that living with others is an art, but it is the finest and most difficult of arts. By learning it early in life, you can save yourself many unpleasant experiences.
You can master this art only if you treat others with courtesy. Courtesy is a way of living inspired by thoughtfulness, consideration, and respect for others and for yourself.
We all know people who, upon entering a room, bring with them a cloud. But we also know those whose arrival always brings sunshine. A Boston daily paper once carried this item: "Yesterday was dark and rainy, but Philip Brooks passed down Newspaper Row and the sun shone."
Some people are totally insensitive to others and are constantly ruffling their feelings. They make jokes about other people's appearance or embarrass their companions with sarcastic remarks and unkind criticism.
Others would never ruffle your feelings, but their manner is cold and they leave you cold. They seem to have no interest in you, not a glint of sympathy for your joys and sorrows; they never cheer you up and they often leave you feeling downhearted.
Some find it difficult to relate to others. They may make constant demands on your time, calling and asking you to help with their problems, but they abandon you when you need them. They are self-centered and can think only of their own needs and desires.
Have you ever, in a burst of temper, wounded those you love best in the world, or spoken words that you would give anything to take back? You cannot live amicably with others until you have learned tocontrol your temper. All it takes is making a habit of holding your temper instead of letting it control you.
The intolerant person is unable to see another's point of view. This person demands that others look through his eyes and think that any other perspective is wrong. Such a person is hard to live with, as are those who are determined to have their own way at all times.
Consideration is the heart of good manners, and a courteous manner is a grace that every young person should acquire. Sympathy, sensitivity, and tact make you a desirable companion at home, in school, and at work. Conveying your support through a sympathetic smile or a friendly touch can help a friend through a bad time. Tactful behavior springs from the heart, from the desire to put others at ease and make them comfortable, even in awkward or difficult situations.
Some people proudly claim that they do not wish to be tactful because tact is not "honest." They do not realize that their "honesty" can often be cruel; you can wound others with tactless or insensitive remarks, making the world more difficult for them and for yourself.
There is more kindness in the world than you may believe. What passes for a lack of sympathy can simply be a lack of imagination or a lack of self-confidence; perhaps you hesitate to intrude upon another's joy or sorrow. Fearing the hurt of rejection, you may cloud another's joy by seeming indifferent, or leave another's sorrow uncomfortable because you fear your own feelings.
If you are slow of speech or shy, remember that a sympathetic manner, a smile, a mere friendly touch can help smooth the rough edges of life. If you let the right moment pass today, or if you recognize thehurt you have caused only after the fact, you can still learn from your mistakes.
When we become aware of our own shortcomings, we can more readily understand and forgive the faults of others. Despite our many differences, every one of us shares the same humanity with its strengths and its weaknesses.
"Instill your love into all the world, for a good character is what is remembered," wrote a king of Heracleopolis to his son and successor, Merikare, c. 2135-2040 B.C.A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
One of the most helpful influences in our lives is a good friendship. Although youth is the time when many transforming friendships are made, and our most enduring ones, we continue to forge new attachments throughout our lives. A strong friendship can teach the meaning of unselfishness. A healthy friendship calls for what is best in us and stimulates us to our highest endeavors.
Many young people are mainly influenced by their friends and peer group in school. Their standards and their way of looking at life are determined chiefly by their companions and associates in matters of dress, speech, and behavior. This is evident from the greater weight that young people place upon the approval of their peers rather than their elders.
The person who knows himself and his imperfections needs to be careful that it is not by his weaknesses that he attracts his friends, but by his strengths. Many men and women may be more popular than he is, and some of them deserve their popularity. Others have achieved popularity, however, without deserving it, because amiable weaknesses can seem more attractive than sterling worth.As Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." The popular individual may appear to be more fun than the disciplined professional or the serious person with a definite goal, but associating with him may not be constructive and may lead you into trouble.
In order to grow, friendships need loyalty, love, mutual consideration, and willingness to see the other's point of view. You choose your pleasures, your books, and your occupations, but you do not choose your friends; you only discover them.
The knowledge of having a friend and of being one is the greatest blessing life affords. Perhaps no one can tell you how to make friends, since friends are born, not made; therefore, ...
"Always remember that during your lifetime, the rules of etiquette may change, but courtesy and good manners will always be important."-- from Chapter III, Daily Courtesies
Since the early 1900s the students of a small Dominican School in Northern California received a little book containing simple rules for "the art of living." Written by Sr. Mary Mercedes, O.P., this handbook shows how small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness can help us regain the joy of living. This timeless book combines compelling epigraphs from a diverse pool of great writers and thinkers (including Homer, Oglala Sioux Chief Flying Hawk, and Eleanor Roosevelt) with hints on everything from the art of introductions to suggestions on how to be a good guest, write a letter of condolence, or set a dinner table.
As the world becomes increasingly indifferent to social rules, the sense of etiquette that we once took for granted is fast disappearing. A Book of Courtesy provides a charming, beneficial antidote to this dilemma, restoring the Golden Rule to its rightful place of honor and proving that good etiquette never goes out of style. Here is a practical, reliable guide to proper conduct in every situation.
Manners for a new millennium -- a charming gift to the world, from the Sisters who have upheld the virtues of the courteous life for almost a century
"You may not think living with others is an art but it is the finest and most difficult of arts. By learning it early in life you save yourself many unpleasant experiences".
"Be careful not to hold your knife and fork like weapons. It is perfectly proper to talk with the knife and fork in your hands, but do not wave around a fork or any other utensil, with or without food on it. The knife should never be raised more than an inch or two above the plate".
"Cheerfulness and good spirits allow a person to live with a positive attitude; no one enjoys a grumbler or complainer. A positive outlook makes him a pleasant companion".
"Avoid wounding the feelings of others by inconsiderate remarks or allusions or by repeating unkind criticisms you have heard. No one appreciates hearing disagreeable things about one's self".
"It is not a duty to be brutally honest".
"There is no excuse for appearing on someone's doorstep without telephoning first to inquire if your visit would be convenient. Even if a friend has invited you to stop by at any time, be sensitive to his or her mood and needs whenever you do, and take special care that you conclude your visit well before mealtime, so that you won't put him or her in the position of having to feed you".
About the Author
Sister Mary Mercedes, O.P. (1871-1965), a Dominican Sister, was a teacher for more than fifty years. She wrote the original Book of Courtesy in 1910 for use at the Dominican Convent Upper School in San Rafael, and later at the San Domenico School in San Anselmo. To honor their fiftieth reunion and the sesquicentennial of the Dominican Sisters in California, the Class of 1950 -- most of them grandmothers, all of them experienced in the joys and sorrows of life and profoundly influenced by this book -- revised Sister Mercedes' original volume in the hope of passing on its wisdom to their grandchildren, who inherit a world sorely in need of her message.