Have you noticed that people are really rude these days? I have. Some of these behaviors would have been unheard of in my grandmother's day and even in my mother's:
- Road rage – honking, cursing, using a crude gesture, or becoming violent, usually because someone commits the crime of being too slow.
- Criticism – name calling, fault finding, and character assassination aren't just for politics anymore. Judgement in the true sense of the word. Being condescending and presenting oneself as perfect.
- No respect – cursing in any public place, whether children are present or not. Making fun of the elderly and talking over a speaker. Pushing past someone to get ahead in line, to get the sale item, or the last seat. Wearing casual or sexy clothing to formal events or in sacred spaces. Making a mess and expecting someone else to clean it up. Children hitting parents.
- No manners – taking calls and texting any time, with anyone, and in any place. Failing to RSVP, or feeling no obligation to attend an event one has said 'yes' to. Demanding an explanation for an invitation not received. Feeling entitled to others' possessions and not sending thank you notes (or even saying 'thank you.'). Not responding to a phone call or email for days. Not leaving a tip. Being late or failing to keep a promise.
Why are people so rude? The easiest way for me to answer that question is to think about my own problem with rude behavior. I won't tell you which of these rude 'tudes I've been guilty of, but there is more than one. I don't know for sure, but I think people are willing to be rude today because:
- Rude is cool. Bart Simpson is the poster child for rude behavior. He made rude funny, especially between children and parents. Our most popular media forms are rude and while the media reflects the culture, the culture also reflects its media.
- We're stressed. Never before have we had so many opportunities and the choices to go along with them. So you RSVP for a party and then you get a better opportunity or you choose the option that makes you feel less guilty. Or you don't RSVP at all, because you frankly forgot. You're in a hurry, so you honk at the elderly driver in front of you going 15 in a 25. If you don't multitask by talking or texting while doing other things, you'll never get caught up.
- We're anonymous. In the busyness of today's world, we can feel like a low-priority item. Criticizing someone, cursing, and wearing something revealing may get us negative attention, but at least it's attention. Some of us need attention because we're hurting. We're depressed, feeling rejected, and lost and the pain comes out in rude behavior. The internet makes it possible to say and do things we would never feel comfortable saying face-to-face.
- Lack of training. Boys and girls don't get etiquette training anymore. They're too busy participating in sports and extra-curriculars and playing video games and doing more homework and… Mom and Dad are so busy that teaching manners or even obedience is hard to find time for.
- People have been rude to us. The number one trigger to anger is someone being angry with us. The more often we are the victims of rude behavior, the more tempted we will be to be rude in response.
Just because rude is all the rage, we don't have to join in. The Bible is very clear that we are not to return rude for rude, but kindness. Robert Chapman's biography relates the story of this great and humble evangelist being spat upon by a grocer as Robert preached in the public square. When a visiting family member insisted on buying Robert some groceries, he agreed, but asked that his family member buy the items from the spitting grocer. When this rude man learned that Robert Chapman had specifically requested that his purchase be made from him, he cried and asked Robert's forgiveness, later confessing faith in Christ.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; (1 Cor. 13: 4-6)