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Courtesy and Being Considerate

I was looking up "courtesy" at dictionary.reference.com.

The first definition there is "excellence of manners or social conduct; polite behavior."

The second definition is: "a courteous, respectful, or considerate act or expression."

If you look at the first definition, "courtesy" is all about how you act. It is about manners and being polite. However, as we all know, a person can follow all the rules of courtesy (reigi) and still be "stink" (a bad person). A person can act right but actually be bad. He could bow perfectly but inside be thinking, "I do not respect you at all."

Formal courtesy can be a very shallow thing. It can be a false face, just a mask.

Of course, a sincerely courteous person will also try to follow generally accepted rules of courtesy. But in his case, the outer form of courtesy will actually reflect his feelings. It is true courtesy.

It is hard to tell if a person is exhibiting sincere courtesy or is just faking it. This is particularly true when you first meet someone. He can be all "nice, nice" but actually have bad motives. You might say that he looks right but smells wrong. In Tagalog, I think this might have to do with his "ugali." You just get a feeling that something is wrong. You might get a bad taste in your mouth, the hairs on your head or neck might stand up, you might see ugly, offensive colors, etc.

In Karate, we practice pretty formal rules of courtesy. Some people are very good at it! They will bow right, use the correct titles, keep the proper distance, look or not look in the eye properly, etc. They do everything properly, but that does not mean that they are right (sincere)?

There are also people who seem to do everything wrong. I was very good at this when I was an Aikido student. The rules of courtesy in Aikido are very deep and strict, much more so than in Karate. I used to do everything wrong, but with a good heart. My Sensei explained to me one day that even an act with good intentions can still be wrong. I was good and wrong. It is better to do something good and right.

Which gets me to the subject of being "considerate." A considerate person does good/kind things for others. An inconsiderate person does just the opposite. To me, it is easier to think in terms of being "considerate" instead of just being "courteous" or "respectful." Ideally, these will all coincide. But generally, a considerate person acts from his heart. His actions reflect his true intentions. "Courtesy" and "respect" might be true or they might not be. You have to know the person well to know the truth.

Just remember, a person could bow politely and be thinking, "I sure would like to stab you in the back with a knife!" At the same time, a person could bow incorrectly but have the heart of a saint.

So the issue is not the bow. It is the person.

So let's try to be considerate of others.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin