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Insights & Opinions | August 9, 2012

Uncommon courtesy

Olympics

One gymnast's poor sportsmanship reminds us why "old school" manners are so important

U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney botches her dismount during the artistic gymnastics women's vault final at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Olympic athletes must master more than their individual sport. They must also be masters of protocol. Each athlete knows that following the "prescribed code of conduct" for the games in general and their sport in particular is non-negotiable. Chaos ensues and everyone suffers when they don't. The same holds true for life in general. On Sunday, real life, everyday protocol--more commonly known as manners--fell with Olympic gymnast Mckayla Maroney flat on its fanny.

But it's not Maroney's gymnastic tumble people will remember, or even her Olympic silver medal in the individual vault. What sticks is her discourteous behavior towards fellow competitors on the sidelines of the North Greenwich Arena in London. Though Maroney's feelings of frustration are understandable, it was her failure to abide by a protocol of courtesy and good sportsmanship that ruined her evening.

Why does rude behavior seem to be more common than courtesy in 21st century society? Are etiquette, manners, decorum, and social graces unfashionable? Have Americans become less civil and more boorish? Not really. Our postmodern culture has just hijacked the age-old definitions of these timeless words.

As Christians, cultivating courtesy--"the art of living with yourself and others"--is a practical way to participate in the Gospel. All good and right behavior originates with God and His laws apply to every area of life. So saying "please and thank you, you're welcome, and I'm sorry" are reflections of God's goodness. Thinking before we speak, being a good listener, practicing humility and patience, being able to say "no-thank you," and knowing when to shut your mouth are principles outlined in the Book of Proverbs.

Since it's never too late to be polite, the time to reverse the trend of bad behavior is now. Like the talented Olympians, practicing uncommon courtesy, consideration, honor, deference, tact, and kindness towards those in your sphere of influence will take hours of practice. If you stumble, have the grace and good manners to get up, smile and apologize for the offense. After all, our uncommon courtesy may be the only Gospel someone hears.