“Do not take payment in politeness,” says the sage, Balthasar Gracian. And it’s something we do quite without thought a lot of the time... allowing someone’s cheeky, endearing smile to win us over to their way, especially if we think ‘their way’ is disagreeable.
Those who engage in curt politeness seek to get away with murder, covering their tracks with hardly a cost but deceit. “All’s good,” apparently!
It’s definitely “a kind of fraud.” Insincerity reigns in the giver’s heart and it’s transmitted through the ‘wind of their words’ and a kindly wink into the receiver’s! How many times have we felt duped? It plainly takes a mind of awareness and a heart of courage to stand our ground and not entertain the empty graces of those insincere people who might seek our favour for the wrong reasons.
This “Bank of Elegance” that they transaction with is folly; it’s not allied with the financial institution of truth and integrity. Their lies are shallow and we’ll be trapped, sooner or later, if we don’t watch it.
Indeed, when we’re revealed as advocating their actions and words by returning the same ‘genteel’ politeness (inevitably without a lot of thought or conviction) we’ll double-cross ourselves in the very act!
When people have nothing to barter with but words it’s a sad blight on the landscape of the soul. What needs to be done need not be said... what needs to be said need not be done. Words and actions have little relation to one another in the actual course of life, except in congruence! May we be people who are congruent.
There’s a big difference between respect and power. When people wish to win us over by polite humour only they trample respect to clamour for power (over us and the situations we’re involved in). May we, instead, be people of respect--first. Power is a gift that people bestow; it’s not for us to take.
And this is all about putting people first and not situations. We should not mould our hearts around circumstances, but on solid rock issues of truth, love and wisdom. Heartless courtesy is a rank sin and needs to be ‘politely’ banished without a lot of fuss, but perhaps not without a loving rebuke for those inclined and wise enough to listen.
We indeed offer our compliments, genuinely and sincerely, for the qualities of the man or woman that are in vast display before us, and not for the advantages our own base desires wish us to bring.
With the sturdy and unyielding all-powerful grace of God, we bring our thoughts and ways into obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5-6). Indeed, in the way of Jesus himself, we see through the deception and go onto the next thing. We go onto love, and find its home.
Acknowledgement to Balthasar Gracian’s 191st Aphorism, “Do not take Payment in Politeness.”
Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.