When Good Manners Are Bad for You

After enjoying a pleasant excursion with her daughter, Judy noticed a  man intently staring at her as she exited their downtown class. His look sent shivers down her spine. Judy grabbed her child’s hand and hastened to the car.


Photo by: Med Badr Chemmaoui

As she buckled her seat belt, pounding on her car window jolted her. The man had followed her! “Roll down your window,” he motioned.

“No! Move out of my way,” she said and started her car.

He backed away, and Judy safely drove away. But her daughter, who hadn’t noticed the man earlier, objected, “Mama, why were you so rude to that man?”

My friend’s experience raises a question: Should good manners trump intuition and wisdom?

Having been raised in the Deep South, I often felt they did. But good manners, like love, should not harm anyone—including the user (Rom. 13:10). Neither do they ignore warnings.

The following Scriptures challenged my thinking on how to deal with people. Look at these godly examples of handling contrary relatives and authority figures.

With Relatives:

  • Jesus’ clear mission and priority was to fulfill His Father’s will. He didn’t let others sidetrack or manipulate Him. When the Jews wanted to kill Him, He couldn’t even trust His brothers (who didn’t yet believe in Him) (John 7:1–10). When they told Him to go to the feast, Jesus said, “‘You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.’ …However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret (Jn. 7:8, 10 NIV emphasis mine).
  • When someone interrupted Jesus’ teaching to tell Him that His mother and brothers wanted to see Him, “He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matt. 48-50 NIV).

With Those in Authority:

  • When God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint David as the next king, Samuel feared King Saul would kill him. To cover his true purpose, the Lord told Samuel to take a heifer and say he had come to sacrifice to the Lord (1 Sam. 16:1–5). Full disclosure would have endangered Samuel and his mission.
  • My mama told me it was rude not to respond when people spoke to you—especially those in positions of authority. But when the rulers, Herod and Pilate, questioned Jesus, He gave them no answers (see Luke 23:9; Jn. 19:8-9). (Remember Herod had had Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist beheaded.)


Photo by: Daniela Cuevas

I believe Judy taught her daughter an important lesson that day: Practicing good manners isn’t mindlessly complying with people you don’t trust—no matter what position they hold.

God calls us to be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. We don’t have to answer everyone’s questions or “go along to get along.” Using discernment is both godly and wise.

Little Women, Big God releases March 8th! In the chapter on Rahab I show you how to apply biblical ethics to the messy areas of life. Click here to learn more.

Question: Have good manners ever pressured you to deny good sense?

Click here to comment.


Debbie W. Wilson

Sometimes I link up with these great sites:

#TestimonyTuesday, #IntentialTuesday, #TuesTalk, #Tell it to me Tuesdays, #A Little R & R Wednesdays #w2wwordfilledwednesday, #Wedded Wednesday, #Women with Intention,  #LivefreeThursday#Grace and Truth,

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  1. Amy Nowak

    This weekend a stranger came to our car asking for money for breakfast. Did this person exhibit bad manners and were we obliged to give what was asked?

    • Debbie Wilson

      Amy, Good question! I think we ask our Father to guide us in the moment. Jesus had the benefit of being able to see into people’s hearts. He responded accordingly and didn’t respond the same way to everyone. I’m amazed at how He was not afraid to hurt people’s feelings to expose a person’s heart and need for Him.

  2. Jacqueline

    This is very thought provoking. I’d never given much thought to this, nor framed it as manners. It is eye opening to read those selected scriptures in the context of your topic. Thank you for a well reasoned and timely article.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Jacqueline. And I am enjoying your book, Brokenness to Beauty! So much comfort is tucked into its pages.

  3. Ann

    Very provocative Debbie. Being raised as I was and during the time I was I find it difficult to be rude. As with most things my children taught me about this. When they were young and all came grocery shopping with me, there was an elderly man sitting on the bench facing the cashier line we were checking out on. Chris was about 9, Matt 7 and Liz 4. The gentleman motioned for Chris to come over to him. I was standing right there so he was safe. I watched to see what he would do. He struggled with it for a moment but he didn’t know the man and so wouldn’t go over to him. The man then called Liz over and she went. He pointed to a quarter on the ground which she picked up and he told her to keep. He looked at Chris and said – I tried to give it to you but you wouldn’t come over to me. He didn’t know him and while my kids were never rude he was on the cusp because he was unsure of what the man wanted – even though I was right there. I think there is much wisdom in this post and what would be “rude” in another situation is wisdom in others!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Ann, what a great illustration. I agree. Some may accuse us of being rude, when we are being cautious and wise. In counseling I heard too many stories of people who felt mean or were told they were being silly for being firm and suffered for giving in. I want people to know it isn’t rude to use your brains and be cautious. A reasonable person will understand.

  4. Michael Cournia

    Hi Debbie, this is an interesting read and a thought provoking subject. When we are in tune with the Holy Spirit, I believe that we will be instructed on what to do in God’s eyes. Sometimes that will be driving away without a word. Other times it will be to give our time and money. I really enjoy listening and responding to the Holy Spirit instructions. Recently, I was in Oakland California with a client sitting outside at an outdoor cafe. A typical homeless person approached us and asked for money. I waited for instruction and knew what to do. I told him I would not give him any money but I would buy him breakfast. I excused myself from my client and brought this homeless person into the McDonalds that was a couple of doors down. On our way there I asked what his story was. He explained the hardship that he was going through. While we were in line to order, I told him to order whatever he wanted. I then went on and told him that I have been where he is. He gave me a disbelieving look An observed my nice suit. I told him a part of my story and how the Lord had save me in more ways than one. I asked him if he had ever gone to church and what were his dreams. He spoke of a church that he had attended once that was in the neighborhood and where he would really like to go to work. After I paid for the food and loaded him up encourage them to seek the Lord and to go after his dream. About 6 or 8 months later the client that I had been with that day was at the same sidewalk café having lunch. The homeless person that I just described can buy and asked about me. The difference was and he was normally dressed and a spark in his eyes. To keep this brief, he went to church, got saved and landed his dream job. I told my client to tell me thank you. What a joy it was to get uncommon feedback. My point in the story Is that when directed, games of not only our money , but our relatable story and most of all our time. There’s no doubt in my mind that had I just handed him some money that this type of outcome would have happened this quickly.
    Thanks for your question that brought back many wonderful memories of both sides of your question. Well done.

  5. Debbie Wilson

    Michael, that is a very inspiring story. Thank you for sharing it. I also believe the Lord leads us. Sometimes He uses an uneasy feeling to warn us. Sometimes He prods us to get up and dig a little deeper. We miss divine appointments if we shrink back without seeking His will. I’m glad you didn’t miss that appointment!

  6. Emily

    Yes, I have been compliant most of my life and gone along with others in order to keep the peace. But just a couple of months ago, I read the book Boundaries. It was such a an eye opening book that has to do with exactly what you shared. We have to use or common sense and set boundaries with people who may harm us.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Emily, Boundaries is a wonderful book. Surround yourself with people who will help you practice them. Many blessings for your journey.

  7. Miranda

    Very good!! I am always wondering if Jesus lived now, how would he treat the beggars? Would he shrug them off, I doubt it He would converse and talk to them because they are the ones who need Him the most.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Miranda, Isn’t that the truth. He shrugged off the rulers that He knew had hard hearts and opened His arms to beggars.

  8. Beth

    When I studied the book of Matthew last year, Debbie, I also kept a listing of different boundaries that I noticed Jesus setting. It helped to give me greater insight into the “nos” of Jesus and certainly you’ve brought even more found in other places in Scripture. I think this is a great post, my friend, and am so glad you’re clarifying and demystifying this confusing issue. I’ll be sharing.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Beth. It is confusing. I’m glad the Scriptures models boundaries.

  9. Elizabeth Meyers

    Well said. I wish I had learned this lesson earlier in life. It took me a while to figure out that sometimes you just have to hang a very clear “no trespassing” sign across yourself and that means you may have to be very rude. I appreciate the Biblical basis you shared for what I had to learn the hard way. This will help me further explain the concept to my own daughters.

  10. Debbie Wilson

    Elizabeth, reasonable people often feel rude when they are assertive because they wouldn’t need someone to spell it out that strongly. They pick up hints and wouldn’t want to take advantage of someone. But those who would take advantage of us don’t mind crossing personal and ethical boundaries to get what they want. Jesus is always our model. Thanks for sharing!

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