civility, class, considerate, etiquette, gentility, gracious, introduction, manners, noblesse, relationships, society

What Does It Mean to be Gracious?

Could anything be more delightful than a gracious person?  How lovely the world would be if everyone aspired to being gracious, instead of wealthy, famous or powerful.  Gracious is more than good manners and etiquette, but also, in a way, something less.  It’s almost minimalistic in its simplicity.  I think of etiquette and manners as codes of behavior – as things that are formulaic, things that can be taught.  To be gracious is an art.  It is the art of being considerate of others at all times and in every situation.

Graciousness, at its most advanced, is good manners gone rogue.  The gracious person doesn’t need to worry about good manners and proper etiquette – it is intuitive, like breathing. Adhering to particular manners and proper etiquette at all times is not always gracious, and the gracious person knows when it is best to abandon them.  Sometimes people use manners and etiquette to make people around them look bad or seem unsophisticated.  This is not gracious – it is rudeness and snobbery.  When manners harden into formality or a way to elevate oneself at the expense of others, this is not gracious.

The gracious person is warm, welcoming and always looking for the opportunity to elevate others instead of themselves.  Because they are comfortable in their own skin, the gracious person does not constantly engage in self-aggrandizement; they do not feel the need to assert their superiority over others.  Instead, they constantly search for opportunities to make those around them as comfortable as possible.

If you are gracious, then your aim should be to make the day of anyone you interact with more pleasant rather than less, even in the most imperceptible ways.  No matter how bad a day a person is having, a person does not have the right to make other peoples’ days less pleasant because of it.  Personal difficulties are just that – personal.  They are not an excuse for being unpleasant with strangers, family and friends.

To be gracious requires empathy and a determination to use that empathy in your dealings with others.   It requires an ability to differentiate a difference of opinion from an unjust one, and know which one to respect and which one to stand against.

Graciousness does not require wealth or a distinguished bloodline – although, to embrace it elevates you the status of princes among your fellow man.  I have met homeless people whose graciousness in difficult circumstances left me speechless and boorish elites living in luxury and ease whose behavior left me equally so.

So why write a blog on how to be gracious now?  We are living in a world where class systems have exploded, and where those with money, fame and visibility are no longer living under the concept of noblesse oblige – that privilege entails responsibility; that leadership, reputation and respect within society must be earned; that the advantaged have the duty to help the less-advantaged.  It is my belief that if we choose to embrace these ideals – to be gracious with one another – that civility and a greater gentility might return to our public and private lives.

The premise of this blog is that we are all the noblesse, if we chose to behave nobly – with grace, with honor and with empathy for our fellow man.  Forget politics, money, class and religion – choose to be gracious with everyone.  This blog will explore what it means to be gracious today.

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2 thoughts on “What Does It Mean to be Gracious?

  1. Well I failed on a- this week. I got annoyed with someone from a "lower social position" and should have been more gracious when they attempted to tell me what to do. I should have read your blog before this week to remind me of how to always, always, always be on my best behavior no matter how annoyed I might be. I spoke the truth but… Thanks Jen. I do like your blog!

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