The Scout Law Revisited: Courteous

A Scout is taught to be polite to everyone, regardless of their age, gender, social position or belief system. He understands the importance and foundation of good manners.

The definition of courteous is, : “Polite, respectful and considerate in manner.” It is taught to Scouts as one of the foundations of our law, but I would go so far as to say it’s the most important principle to follow when dealing with others. Being courteous will open doors for you, and will allow others to enjoy a positive impression of you.

As a young man, I remember that it made me feel good to treat people with respect, because they reacted well to it. I could tell be their smiles, their handshakes, and the way they spoke about me, specifically to my parents. There was a real sense of pride in treating people as well as I could, and tying to make them feel good. I discovered that it made me feel good as a result. I noticed that when you empower people, and make them feel safe and happy to be around you, two things would happen:

  1. They will treat you better, and go out of their way to help you and make you feel appreciated.
  2. Other people will see these things, and want to be around you as well.

In other words, I had discovered the power courtesy gives you, and the doors it opens. By the simple act of respecting others and being polite to them, you can get most people to react favorably. It’s that simple. As you get older, that becomes even more crucial.

As I sit here writing this today as an adult, it saddens me to see the level of disrespect, bad manners and discourteous conduct I see and read, almost on a daily basis. Especially with most of our modern society online, it has become easy to write something hidden behind a keyboard somewhere, rather than look someone in the eye and say it face to face. As a society, we have almost become immune to it, and accept it as “the way things are.”

It shouldn’t be the way things are.

Even in a virtual world, it’s important to think about the impact and impression your words have. If you wouldn’t stand face to face with someone and say it, you shouldn’t write it online. Period.

As a teacher, I remind my students of this as often as possible. I want them growing up in a society where people are generally polite and courteous, and think about the impact their words and tone have on others. I want them to think about the impression they’re making on others. I want them to think about everything they say and do and ask themselves if they would get up in a crowded auditorium and say it to a mixed crowd. If the answer is no…don’t say it. It can only come back to haunt you, make your life harder, and mostly, it does nothing to make the world better. That should be our ultimate goal: To leave this earth better than how we found it.

This starts with us. It starts with the words we say, and how we treat others. It starts with our ability and our commitment to be courteous, even when we disagree with someone and we’re sitting behind a keyboard. Someone will read it. And your words and actions have a powerful affect on others.

Make them positive.

-Z

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