After personal experience and much thought about some of the things the Lord has been teaching me lately, I’ve come to a conclusion: politeness is a great destroyer of true fellowship and close friendships.
That may seem like a ridiculous thing to say…I mean, aren’t we supposed to be polite to each other?! Well, actually, according to the Bible, we are supposed to love each other. Jesus tells us that by this the world will know that we follow Him…“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35). And before anyone argues that being polite to each other is loving each other…it’s not. According to my trusty Oxford Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus, “polite” is defined as “having good manners, courteous…cultivated, cultured…refined, elegant”. Those are all nice things, but loving someone goes much deeper than just being courteous to them.
But back to my original statement about politeness destroying true fellowship and close friendships. Ephesians 4:25 says, “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.” If you look at it honestly, much of politeness is just lying. Someone asks you if it would bother you if they do something in particular…it really does bother you, but in order to “be polite” you tell them you don’t mind. That is a lie. And to make it worse, usually in a situation like that, if you told them it doesn’t bother you just out of politeness, you’ll probably end up slightly resenting them because they are doing something that bothers you. It really is quite ridiculous when you think about it!
Lest this all be taken wrongly, please know that I am not saying we should all be selfish and make everyone do what we want because it’s “just being polite” to say otherwise. Or that you go around offending people just for the sake of not being polite. But what I am saying is that we should “speak truth” to each other because “we are members of one another”. Speak truth…the whole truth. Not just most of the truth covered with a polite veneer. For, and this I know from personal experience, not speaking the whole truth with each other prevents true fellowship (we are “members of one another”) from happening. How can you be of the same Body with someone else when you aren’t ever sure if they are telling the whole truth?
Both of the scenarios mentioned at the beginning of the previous paragraph could easily happen if someone decided to just stop being polite. But the point of this isn’t to just stop being polite. As believers, the point is to replace politeness with something that goes much deeper…loving one another as Jesus desires us to because we are all members of His Body. And to really love one another, we can’t let any untruth (no matter how “small” it may seem) keep us from being members of one another. Society would tell us that it definitely is not polite to confront someone about their sin. However, as brothers and sisters in Christ, it is our responsibility to confront each other about sin (Matthew 18:15-20; Galatians 6:1). And if we truly love each other, we would want to confront each other about anything that is keeping the other from drawing closer to Jesus or that is detracting from giving glory to the Lord.
As these thoughts have been running through my head lately, and trying to form themselves into something coherent, a couple days ago I was talking about this all with one of my dearest friends. And I told her that I wanted her to not be polite to me and I wouldn’t be polite to her. And despite my recently formed convictions regarding all this (though the seedling forms of those convictions have been there for awhile), I know that statement will be hard to always follow through with. After it has been ingrained in you since day one that you need to be polite to everyone, etc., it’s hard to break out of that and go past it to speaking the whole truth, in love, to each other about all things. But I know and can trust that the Lord will continue to keep working in me, because ultimately, this all is for His glory.
“…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ…”