What is the relationship between politeness, humility and forthrightness?
As a general rule, I value all three, but… there is always a ‘but’… I can’t say I value them equally. I suspect most people would favor one or another, and thus give short shrift to the rest.
Depending on context, I probably would most often emphasize forthrightness. I’m definitely not for superficial politeness, although it is necessary in professional and formal situations. I’m fine with going along to get along in my everyday life, but certain things will trump that.
Maybe I find it easier to balance forthrightness with a certain kind of humility or at least self-deprecation. About many things in my life, I can be fairly lacking in secretiveness and I haven’t tended to have an overabundance of pride.
Whether I’m forthright or not, it usually wouldn’t be an issue of politeness as the deciding factor. But all other things being equal, I prefer basic politeness for the simple reason of not enjoying conflict.
Particular things, however, can aggravate me in such a way that I feel disinclined to back down, sometimes because of a principle and at other times because of plain irritableness. I’ll (humbly) admit that my depressive personality can make me not perfectly friendly and kind more often than I’d prefer. I have a bad habit of treating people rudely who treat me rudely, especially online. I don’t have much patience for trolls or for troll-like behavior. I also can’t stand willful ignorance, but unwillful varieies of uninformed people don’t directly annoy me.
I won’t suffer fools when they force their foolishness on me. And I try not to force my personal issues onto others. No one is perfect. I’m fine with imperfection as that is the normal state of humanity. This is where my basic sense of humility comes in, humility tinged with an element of empathy. The difficlty is that not everyone shares this attitude.
I’d love to live in a world where empathy was the normal way of relating. In my experience, mutual respect more has to do with empathy than with politeness. I’d put empathy at the root of many worthy values: humility, compassion, understanding, etc. I’d also add my valuing truth in terms of basic honesty, a close cousin of forthrightness. Empathy helps one to consider honesty as it impacts others, transforming mere verbal truthfulness into a more profound sincerity.
I can’t emphasize enough how closely my valuing of truth relates to my sense of empathy. I don’t always overtly express my empathy, but it is always there in the background. I care about truth for very human reasons. Lies and ignorance aren’t harmless things. Truth-seeking, and when necessary truth-declaring, are what gives morality force in the world, the only force that can challenge the physical kinds of force.
This is why forthrightness can matter so much, even when it might be perceived as rudeness. I will never back down when it comes to important issues of truth. It is about the only thing I will get righteous about.