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I remember a conversation I had with my mother when I was just a little girl. A couple my parents’ age had apparently had a very difficult marriage. Mother’s comment to me was that one of the reasons this couple did not break up was because he was a gentleman and treated his wife as a gentleman should.

Now, I didn’t think much of this comment at the time, but in recent years I’ve reflected on the actions of this man. Sadly his sense of civility has become lost in today’s culture of rudeness, cynicism, sarcasm, and the emphasis on “my rights.” And this loss is impacting each of our lives in how we relate in our marriages and in how we train, or don’t train, our children.

I see this loss in my own life when I ask myself these questions:

Do I treat my husband John in the same way I would my close friend or an older visitor to my home? Do I speak to him in the same way I would another person? Am I considerate and thoughtful—even when I don’t feel like it and am irritated with him?

In all honesty, my answer would most likely be “no.”  I didn’t ask him if he’d like me to fix him a cup of coffee, or if there was anything I could do for him. I didn’t thank him for something he routinely does. I didn’t say, “I hope you have a great day.” It’s so easy to get lazy with those to whom we are the closest. But beware—laziness becomes a fertile field for rudeness. And rudeness destroys relationships.

We have found that many marriages which are headed into trouble could be rescued if civility, manners, and thoughtfulness became habits instead of exceptions. Sometimes little acts of kindness can lay the groundwork for healing to take place in a relationship. Frequently a kind action must be done simply because it’s the right thing to do, not because we feel like it or the other person deserves it. But just because it’s right.

Let’s encourage one another to act like ladies and gentlemen. Beginning today, let’s speak and act with kindness in one specific way towards our spouse. If we recapture a sense of civility one step at a time in our marriages, our children will be more likely to treat their future mates with grace and kindness.