Dignity and Manners - Is there a connection?


First, let’s take a look at the definition for the word Dignity.

dignity  /ˈdignitē

1 the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect

origin Middle English: from Old French dignete, from Latin dignitas, from dignus 'worthy'.

And now, let’s look at the meaning of the word Manners.

man·ner/manər manners - plural

1 a person’s outward bearing or way of behaving toward others. 2 (manners) polite or well-bred social behavior

Synonyms: correct behavior · etiquette · social graces · good form · protocol · politeness · decorum · propriety · gentility  

The definition of the word Dignity tells us that we are worthy. We are worthy. The guy down the street is worthy. The woman in jail is worthy.The not-so-nice neighbor – she is worthy too. The elderly person – worthy. The disable child – worthy.  Having been made-in-God’s image, we are worthy. We have dignity. Possessing God-given dignity makes each of us worthy to be treated respectfully and also to treat others respectfully.

The word Manners relates to how we consider and behave toward others. So the answer is a resounding YES. Manners matter and have a direct correlation to how we treat others with the dignity they deserve and, just as revealing, how we live up to our own God-given dignity.

Manners are not just niceties but give us clear direction and guidelines for honoring each person we encounter as made in the image and likeness of God. Manners in our culture have “slipped” as is evident in the crass language and behavior that has become acceptable; the lack of respect for the elderly and unborn; and sloppy or nonexistent table, phone and relational etiquette.  Speaking kindly, dressing modestly and appropriately, chewing with our mouth closed all reflect basic manners that say to those around us: I respect you and I respect myself.

The questions that beg answering… Do we live up to our dignity as made in the image of God? Do we treat each person we come in contact as being worthy of respect? Do we treat our family members with dignity? How can we model and teach our children to recognize and respect the dignity of each and every person we encounter beginning with the teaching and practice of basic manners both within and beyond our homes. Manners don’t just happen. Good manners and common courtesy must be taught, require practice, the building of virtue and a focus on others rather than self.

Check out these articles and resources that may be helpful in fostering manners and respect in your families. Ten Practical Tips for Building a Culture of Dignity and Respect in your Family

Teach Manners

Pass the Manners Please: Navigating Politely in a Rude World

Everyday Graces: A Child's Book of Good Manners

A Little Book of Manners for Boys: A Game Plan for Getting Along with Others

A Little Book of Manners: Courtesy & Kindness for Young Ladies

The Catholic Family Handbook