Thursday, November 10, 2005

How Do You Spell "Manners"?

This morning I'm speaking to the local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. When the steering committee approached me in August, they asked me to organize my talk around the title, "Star Spangled Manners."

I happily agreed, but I requested they add a subtitle: Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World. As important as manners are, I didn't want the morning's focus to be on stuff like how you get a three year old to chew with his mouth closed. The way I see it, we all learn to conform our behavior if the consequences of disobedience are painful and consistent enough. The real goal is to get that three year old to value certain behaviors so much that, even when no one in authority is around, he still uses them.

So, I asked myself, "Why do we use proper manners?" And the best answer I came up with is, "Respect."

Now you ask, "Why are you writing about preschoolers when this blog is for teens?" (Yes, you do. Work with me here.)

"Fair question," I answer. "Let's ask questions that apply to your age group."

Q: Why do you refuse to go to a wild party, even though your parents probably won't find out?

A: Respect for your parents and yourself.

Q: Why do you keep your mouth shut when "the cool kids" are ridiculing the awkward kid?

A: Respect for someone made in the image of God.

Q: Why do you choose to abstain from pre-marital sex?

A: Respect for your body, the body of the other person, and the plan of God for your life.

You get my drift. We learn right from wrong in our heads, but unless we honor it in our hearts, we'll choose wrong when no one's looking. Or when peer pressure gets too strong. Or, or, or . . .

Respect springs from belief that God created us for His glory, and His plans are for our great good and delight. He places authority figures over us--parents, teachers, youth directors--because He loves us too much to leave us to stumble around trying to figure things out on our own. Of course, authority figures are human, too. They sometimes make mistakes. But God never steers us wrong. We have His Word as a clear guideline on how to live, and it starts with the heart--not the outward behavior.

Good questions to ask yourself today: Do I respect God's Word as truth? Do I respect myself as God's child created for His glory? Do I respect the authority figures God has placed in my life? Do I respect others as people created in the image of God?

Somehow I think, if we get to the place where we can answer YES to all those questions, our manners will fall in line. Don't you?


Samantha said...

Jeanne, that's an incredible reminder of holding back when everyone else is putting out. Everyday I always hear about a party, who's having sex with whom, and being asked when I'm finally going to give in and just get it over with. People are always asking me why I don't party and why I don't have sex, and I've never had a straight answer other than it's just no crowd. Now I can smile and say because I respect myself and everyone else!
God bless!

Jeanne Damoff said...

Bravo, Samantha! Resisting peer pressure is hard, and like you said, it's not always easy to make people understand why you don't go along with the crowd.

You know the L'Oreal commercials? The supermodel dyes her hair and then shakes it all around and gives the camera a sultry look and says, "Because I'm worth it."

Well, I think as God's children, when people ask, "Why are you waiting until marriage to have sex?" you can honestly answer, "Because I'm worth it." You respect yourself and God's plan for your life. Maybe you can even help others see that they are "worth it" too.

All the best!