That’s Just Plain Rude!

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. …  Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, Philippians 2:3-4, 14-15

If you are old like me, maybe you remember the movie scene in Fried Green Tomatoes where middle-aged Evelyn repeatedly slams into the red sports car driven by much younger women who had stolen the parking spot Evelyn had been waiting for.  Madea Goes to Jail has a similar scene that takes place in a Kmart parking lot.  Instead of slamming into this younger women’s red sports car, Madea climbs aboard a hoist truck, picks the car up and proclaims to the younger women demanding that her car be put down,  “I’m gonna put it down for you.” She drops the car to prove her point.

Reactions to Rudeness

People feel strongly about rudeness especially when they are the brunt of it.  On the more positive side, I think it’s because they feel strongly about justice.  Evelyn and Madea reacted strongly because they felt they had been treated unjustly.  And we agree with them. When Evelyn slams into that sports car and retorts, “Face it, girls. I’m older and I have more insurance” to the younger and faster women, we are shocked but, at the same time, feel a sense of fairness.  When Madea drops the sports car, we think her reaction is a bit over the top but, nevertheless, identify with her desire to right a perceived wrong.

On the more negative side, I think the reason recipients of rudeness feel they have been treated unjustly is because they feel they are entitled – they feel they deserve (or rightly possess ownership of) – the thing taken or intruded upon by the rude person.  While there is much to say about the sinful attitude of entitlement that lies underneath this mindset (and I am going to expound on this from the viewpoint of the rude person), and a victim’s revengeful response to rudeness, I want to focus specifically on the younger women in the sports car who is not always younger, or driving a red sports car, or a woman.

What’s going on?

So what is going on with the person who leaves the toilet in a mess with no regard for the next person in line or for the one who has to clean it all up?

Why do some people linger at a restaurant table for hours after they have finished eating while crowds are waiting with no thought for those who are waiting or for the server who is loosing tip money?

What are people thinking who congest a walk-across, a sidewalk, or a grocery store isle with their group, while other people have to find ways to maneuver around them?

What is it with those who refuse to say “thank you” to the drive-through person, who bark commands at the waitress, or who don’t even acknowledge the grocery bagger or the person behind the cash register?

What about the ones who yell all night long so that everyone is the neighborhood is bothered?

What’s going on in the heads of those who trash a table, a room, or an entire house?  Don’t they realize that some underpaid busboy or cleaner who is working long hours has to tackle the mess?

I’m sure you can easily add more questions about rudeness to this list, but moving on …

People are not rude on purpose.

Although I do personally know some people who are intentionally rude, for the most part, I don’t think rudeness is necessarily intentional.  In fact, I think most likely it is not.

One reason I think rude people are not cognizant of their rudeness is because rude behavior seems to be trendy and, when you are caught up in the middle of a trend, it seems normal.  For example I’ve lived in a beach resort area in the Southeast for over twenty years and I can pretty much tell who is in town by the type of rude behavior that I see and experience.  Most times, I can put a state and county tag on the “Reckless Driver.”  I can predict with high accuracy which college football team the “Inconsiderate Shopper” pulls for.  The “Restaurant Table Squatters” are most likely at one end of the age spectrum, that the “Unruly House Guest/Renter” is probably at the other end.   I imagine each of these types of rudeness are pretty typical of the group these people associate with.  

Secondly, I know people (many of whom claim to be Christians) who exhibit profound kindness on occasion but who are generally rude in public.  If they were aware of their public rudeness, I don’t think they would continue it.

Thirdly, a typical way to talk about rudeness is “thoughtlessness”– a state of being without thought for others.  Oftentimes, when we describe a person’s rude behavior, we say things like, “That wasn’t very thoughtful” or “She was looking out for number one” implying she had zero thought for anyone else.

Therefore I draw my conclusion that the rude person often does not even realize he is being rude.  Rather, rude behavior feels natural and normal to the rude person because it spontaneously flows from a sinful heart attitude.

What is the heart attitude of a rude person?

I think people are rude for one of the same reasons they react strongly against it; basically, deep down, and perhaps even unbeknown to them, they feel entitled.  The root of rudeness is that rude people truly feel they deserve and are owed certain things more than others – the best parking spot, unlimited service, the entire walkway, or the entire highway – and they aren’t always cognizant of it.

The Apostle Paul labeled this heart attitude, “selfish ambition” or “conceit” (Phil. 2:3).  These terms are related in that they both focus on “me” and not “you.” A person with selfish ambition is one who goals or desires are full of self – they want certain things for themselves.   Conceit has to do with self-importance, pride, smugness, and arrogance   This selfish and conceited way of encountering the world fosters an attitude of entitlement and results in a “me first” viewpoint accompanied by a general lack of thought or regard for others. It is the opposite of “in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).

How do rude Christians impact God’s glory? The gospel?

Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, some people who claim to be Christians are rude and, even more unfortunately, those who name the name of Christ and who sport an unconscious, “I deserve it because I’m me!” perspective end up defaming God’s name and besmearing the gospel.  How?

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8 ESV

Christians (those who belong to or are related to Christ) defame God’s name when they fail to act like the one they are related to – when they fail to reflect his character.  You’ve heard parents of a rude child kiddingly say, “I don’t know who that child belongs to.”  A parent says this because the child’s behavior doesn’t match the parent’s character.  In the eyes of the onlookers, the parent knows she risks looking like someone she is not – someone less than she is.  In a similar way, when we who proclaim to be Christians act like rude children, we make Christ look less than who he is (less glorious) to onlookers.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  The Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:1

Furthermore rude Christians besmear the gospel because they fail miserably to extend the thoughtfulness, loving kindness, goodness, and mercifulness God has extended to us, by way of the gospel, to others.  In contrast, we show that we value the gospel when the way we treat fellow Christians and the world in general is “in view of God’s mercies” (Rom. 12:1).

A Challenge

Here’s a thought.  Honestly look at your behavior from the viewpoint of others?  Do the people you interact with have any reason to think you are rude?  Would they see you as someone who has a servant’s attitude?  Would they really believe that you think of them as more significant than yourself?  Would they be convinced that you are looking out for their interests while you are looking to yours?

Praying you will bring fame to God’s name and amazement to the gospel as you honor others more than yourself.