Address An Index Of Character
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
A person's manner is generally a good index of his character. We have already shown that a gentle manner is simply working out the sentiments of a kind heart. We believe that it naturally rests upon sincerity and those inner graces of the soul, that belong to noble character. Graceful manners thus become the natural exponent of genuine courtesy of the heart. Good manners are nothing in the world but sincere courteousness and kindness, and if they lack the one element of sincerity, they lack all that distinctively stamps them good. There is a conventional manner that is sometimes mistaken for the genuine article ; but they are no more alike than real Scotch woolen goods are like the contemptible shoddy that goes by that name. No amount of so-called polish can do away with truthfulness in our conduct toward others. Somewhere we shall detect the deception, and the manner of conventionality is quickly seen through and put down as a false hearted, untruthful humbug There is no kind of people in the world that we despise so heartily as those who come to us with compliments upon their lips and lies upon their hearts.
True politeness rests upon self-control. It is exhibited in a forgetfulness of self, and a disposition to contribute to the happiness of others. Polite people study to refrain from all that which will annoy those whom they seek to please. They are as ready to acknowledge kind actions as to give them. They have respect for the individuality of others.' They have due regard for another's views and opinions, even though they differ widely from their own. The truly polite man is always tolerant, forbearant, and indulgent toward those with whom he comes in contact. He may be a man of convictions, and when occasion requires, may be able to defend his views with great vehemence. But in his daily contact with the world he does not stir up strife by intruding his own views, nor engender bitterness by passing harsh judgment upon the views of others. The truly courteous man has character enough to be a ready and appreciative listener of what other men have to say. Such a man does not assume that he is better, wiser or richer than his neighbors. He does not boast of his farm, his factory, nor his family. He does not treat the rich nabob with any greater consideration than he does the urchin who blacks his boots. He respects manhood for manhood's sake. He is a thorough gentleman himself, and assumes that everybody else is too. In the sterling integrity of his heart there is room for tender regard, earnest devotion, and persistent self-sacrifice for the good of others.
" For want of this self restraint, " says Samuel Smiles, "many men are engaged all their lives in fighting with difficulties of their own making, and rendering success impossible by their own cross-grained ungentleness ; while others, it may be much less gifted, make their way, and achieve success by simple patience, equanimity and self-control." Perfection of manner, therefore, becomes the perfection of character, and in a large sense is the exponent of the inward thought and intent of the heart.