Have you heard the phrase “polite society”? What does it mean to you? No really. What do YOU think it means?

It’s an important question to answer. Why? Because what you consider polite society to be determines how you act in society. For instance, if you think people should be gracious and courteous, you will likely allow someone to get in line in front of you at the grocery store when they have one item and you have a cart full.

However, if you think it means everything should run in an orderly fashion, you make that person with one item stand behind you because you got there first.

Which one is right? Which one is more polite?

I’m in the former group and get really irritated when I encounter someone in the latter group. Does that make me right or wrong?

You see, we’ve thrown around this phrase of polite society without truly thinking about what it really means. Truth is, we all have an image of what makes society livable.

And yet, I believe there are some basics we can all agree on.

Using please and thank you. Smiling at someone when you look at them. Opening a door, or holding it open, for someone coming through at the same time. Listening when a friend needs an ear. A personal one of mine, adhering to the right of way at a four way stop sign.

But what about those situations where it could go in a couple different ways? Well, that’s when we need to have grace. Grace to acknowledge the other persons actions as not rude. Grace to consider looking at things a different way. Grace to offer forgiveness when we encounter truly rude people.

Grace is what we’ve truly lost. We get so wrapped up in our version of polite society that we forget that we don’t make the rules. We are not Miss Manners. We are not Emily Post. We are not Dear Abby. We are human…and so is everyone else.

Everyone is just trying to navigate to world as carefully as possible, and we all make mistakes. How are you doing at allowing others to make mistakes? How are you doing at acknowledging your own mistakes?

There will never be a wholly polite society. The sooner we get comfortable with that idea, the sooner we can start treating each other with grace and civility.