It was said of Abba Moses the Ethiopian, “that he had so much love, that going about in the night by the dwellings of all those around him, he secretly filled each one’s water pot with water. And this was very tiresome.”
One of the fathers of our time tells us, “If we cannot be saints, let us at least learn to be gracious.”(Elder Aimilianos)
Can simple graciousness, what might be called politeness, somehow help people get closer to Christ? It can be a step toward seeing the image of God in those around us. Graciousness, politeness, tactfulness, go a long way toward bridging earth and heaven. Perhaps there is not so much distance, as first appears, between being polite and loving one another.
It used to be called good manners, certain rules of social life that help us live together and get along with each other. It is not age related, it can be expressed by anyone old or young. Saint Paul describes the original Christian underpinnings of graciousness, saying: “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” (Rom.12,10). But what exactly is graciousness? What might be the characteristics of a gracious person?
A gracious person learns to control his behaviour, first inside himself, and then also inside his own home. True graciousness begins from within the space of our heart; it is expressed inside our home, to our family members, then to our fellow-man, and it is addressed to everyone, without discrimination.
Graciousness does not demand, but gives. A gracious person becomes “weightless”, that is, he does not become burdensome, but tries to apply the words of the Apostle Paul: “In everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you.”(2 Cor.11:9). A gracious person avoids harshness, because he is aware that it is a weakness, not a strength. Graciousness is not abusive, does not speak unbecomingly, does not familiarize itself with being disrespectful, but behaves with prudence.
A gracious person respects and honours the elderly, is not hypocritical, is patient, willing, careful, pleasant, grateful, and tries never to become a tyrant or a nuisance. A gracious person is meek and tolerant and does not give himself willingly over to the passion of anger. He is careful with words, thinks before speaking, and tries to say what is appropriate.
Saint Gregory the Theologian advises that a gracious person is careful even about his gaze, how and how long he looks at others, which can sometimes offend his fellow-man, as well as his own heart. He says if we observe, “observe decently”.
Graciousness can stop aggression or at least, considerably reduce it. If we learn to smile, hold the door for someone, give way to someone, the world around us would start changing for the better. Uphold these simple basic values, graciousness, tactfulness, politeness. If people get used to being kind, a lot more time and effort would be needed to make them aggressive. Such small expressions of love that shine in the routine of daily life connect us to God Who is Himself Consummate Love, and Who communicates and transmits a part of His Consummate Goodness to His creatures.
Ultimately graciousness is the overflowing of one’s soul towards our fellow man. It is the fragrance of many virtues, it is a life lived in Christ. “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”(2 Cor. 2:15) It originates from the excess of the heart. “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” “My heart is inditing a good matter.” (Psalms 119 & 45)
So let us love each other. Let us aspire to graciousness, become polite, and where ever we go try to leave a little trace of goodness. This is not only a sign of being civilized, but also the sign of love, expressions of the Infinite in a routine gesture.