Before Pope John Paul II was pope, he wrote his friend, theologian Henri de Lubac: “The evil of our times consists in the first place in a kind of degradation, indeed in a pulverization, of the fundamental uniqueness of each human person.” To combat this evil, the future pope expressed that he devoted all of his free time to exploring the mystery of the human person. (The Personalism of John Paul II)
Pulverization = to reduce (as by crushing, beating, or grinding) to very small particles, to annihilate or demolish
Degradation = treated or regarded with contempt or disrespect
The evil that JPII described, the breakdown of the respect for the dignity of the human person, can be seen today. We, of course, think of the great evils against humanity when we hear his words, but the disrespect for humanity is seen in those small, everyday encounters as well.
1.) Our own self-degradation, and the second is its fruit, 2.) degrading others. We can be self-degrading in the way we carry ourselves, speak of ourselves, and think of ourselves. And that’s when we see the degradation of others. Our self-degradation, treating or regarding ourselves with contempt or disrespect, leads to that pulverization, that crushing of others. This ultimately manifests itself in the way we treat others: how we present ourselves to others, how we speak to others, how we treat others – how we use others as a means to an end instead of seeing that person as “his own end.”
Practicing etiquette allows us to see ourselves and others as an end, not a means. Etiquette focuses on honoring the dignity of each human person: beginning with ourselves and those around us. Learning how to will the good of those around us, and put that goodwill into action, helps combat the “evil of our times” that Pope John Paul II spoke of.
Etiquette is important because the human person is important, and the way the human person acts is important. May all of our actions lead ourselves and others into a life of virtue, sanctity, holiness, wonder, and joy.
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