I have never been able to bring myself to wear jeans to church. It might seem antiquated but putting on a nice dress before heading to Sunday service makes me feel like my grandmother is smiling down on me. I understand God does not care what you wear, and “Sunday Best” is no longer in fashion. This choice of wardrobe is my own way of showing respect and humility to God and His church.
As our culture evolves, so do the rules of what is acceptable, proper etiquette. Many rules of how to be proper or polite were cemented during previous generations. They are no longer expected or required.
However, good manners will never be completely forgotten. Etiquette continues to have a place in the modern world. It is just no longer expected. What were once rules have become a choice we make, a way to show respect, deference, humility, kindness and any number of other positive regards.
When I reflect on my choice to conform to proper etiquette, it is part of my character, my brand and my style. Etiquette is not a set of rules that leave me in a constant state of fear of making a mistake. I see it as a set of reminders to be kind, not to make a scene and try to make others feel comfortable.
The Collegiate Farm Bureau Chapter at our local community college has a tradition of hosting an etiquette dinner at the start of finals week for sophomores graduating from the agriculture department. I serve as the hostess for the evening’s three-course, narrated meal. During the meal, I share the rules of etiquette – how to recognize the proper fork, eat a dinner roll properly, when it is appropriate to put your elbows on the table, and to pass the salt and pepper together because they are “married.”
None of these are vital rules but they all have a purpose. They make the meal move smoothly, help participants feel more comfortable or keep the focus on good conversation. Understanding the guidelines helps turn situations that are often met with trepidation or unease into a fun and enjoyable events.
Etiquette is not meant to be a scoreboard to track who is breaking the rules. It is a way to conduct yourself, so people enjoy your company. We all can benefit from that reminder.
If you find yourself lamenting a rule of etiquette that seems to have been dismissed as a relic, ask yourself: Do you miss it because it was drilled into your head that it is proper behavior or is it something that brings value to your actions?
If there is value in the practice, be a trendsetter. Take pride in the knowledge you are living by a standard that is slightly more than what is expected. People will always notice when you are kinder than you need to be, more respectful than is deserved and humbler than you should be.
Good manners and proper etiquette will never go out of style. Don’t worry about what is proper or what other people are doing. Make the conscious choice to do what is kind, gracious or respectful to the world around you and you can be confident you have nailed etiquette in the modern world.