Perspectives

The happy honk | The importance of good manners

These are angry times. So what better time for Christians to display good manners, courtesy, and respect?

Have you ever felt nervous or guilty about honking your car horn at somebody—even if the driver ahead of you is texting his friends, and doesn’t realize the red light has changed to green?

You may be right to feel uncomfortable: In these days of road rage, who knows how the other guy might react.

Which is why I’d love to get a gadget called “The Happy Honk.” Attach it to your steering wheel, and when you want to get someone’s attention in a nice way, you just press the button. A pleasant Southern voice says, over a loudspeaker, “Ah hate to bother you, but ah think that light just turned green.”

At a four-way stop, you can press another message: “You go on ahead, sweetie. Have a good one!”

Even slightly hostile messages are bathed in sweetness: For instance, if someone cuts you off, a message reminds you, “Looks like somebody just learned how to drive today . . . Bless your heart!”

I would love to buy a Happy Honk, but sadly, they only exist as a spoof video. But they do remind us of the need for good manners—not just because we don’t want to get killed by other drivers, but also because scripture commands us to treat others with respect.

You might be surprised at how often the Bible discusses this. For example, in Matthew 7:12, we’re told to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In other words, we all want others to treat us with respect and courtesy, and we should be sure we treat others that way, too.

In Colossians 4, Paul says “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to respond to each person.”

In Matthew 5, we’re warned against publicly insulting others. Whoever says to his brother, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fires of hell.

And in Galatians 5, we’re told we are not to engage in “fits of rage” and provoking one another. Instead, we are to strive for patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control—in other words, good manners.

These verses make it clear just how serious it is in God’s eyes to treat others—people He died for—with insults and discourtesy.

Good manners are also important when we serve others. In the book of Ruth, we read of Boaz inviting Ruth—a stranger—to share a meal with him. He personally served her, and when she returned to the fields, Boaz ordered his servants not to insult or humiliate her.

We are even told to extend kindness and courtesy to our enemies, just as God does. In Luke 6, Jesus says we should love our enemies and bless those who curse us, for God Himself “is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”

The need to treat people with courtesy is not always respected today; I can think of a number of celebrities who are known almost as much for their ugly behavior as for their acting chops. But we should remind ourselves, and our kids, that we should exhibit courtesy and respect toward all, even if they do not extend courtesy toward us.

I wish The Happy Honk really did exist: I live in New York City, land of nonstop honking. And yes, I’m sometimes tempted to honk back when someone blares his horn at me. But I try to set a good example for my family, and remember what Scripture teaches about the need to treat others with respect. Plus, to paraphrase Proverbs 15, a gentle answer turns away wrath. But a harsh word—or a loud and obnoxious honk—stirs up anger.

Eric Metaxas

 

— by Eric Metaxas

Metaxas is the voice of Breakpoint, a radio commentary (www.breakpoint.org). Copyright© 2018 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.

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