Around the holidays, we sometimes find ourselves in the same room with someone who makes us uncomfortable. How to get through those moments? Try being polite! It works.
A sweet young mom pulled me aside before church. Someone she’d had a run in with in the past just strolled through the door. “What do I do?” she asked, frantic. “It’s so awkward!”
Searching my mind to find a way to help, my secret weapon came to mind. “Just be polite,” I said. “That’s all you have to do. It’s powerful.”
Her shoulders relaxed, and her lips shifted into a smile. “Thanks. I’ll try it.”
After church, as she packed up her little ones to head home, she pulled me aside. Her face beamed. “It worked! We ended up having a nice conversation.”
Yep. I’ve seen this happen repeatedly in my life, and I’m always a little surprised that it works so well.
Why is being polite so powerful? Four reasons:
1. Being polite is another way of saying, “Be kind.” By smiling warmly and saying, “Hi, how are you?” to someone you have negative feelings for, you aren’t being fake. In a sense, you are “Loving your enemy.” This gives you the confidence in knowing you can rise above a conflict.
2. Being polite creates a shield around you. You don’t have to go into all the issues from the past; you don’t have to open your heart to a person you don’t trust; and you don’t have to condone their behavior. You can stay safe behind this powerful tool.
3. The kindness you show by a polite greeting can soften the other person’s animosity toward you. When someone you’ve sparred with bumps into you, most likely they are as skittish as you. It’s fun to see a person’s surprised reaction when I’ve offered a friendly hello. Almost always, they return the pleasantries. This doesn’t amount to a complete reconciliation, but perhaps a first step.
4. Your kindness may soften your own resentment. Ages ago, I bumped into an ex-boyfriend at a concert. Rather than scowling, I decided to act like a grown-up and chat with him. Relieved to let go of my angry heartache, from then on, we were able to be friends.
What do you think? Is this idea crazy or powerful? Give it a try, and I’d love to hear what happens.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:32 ESV)
Remember, he loves you like there’s no tomorrow.