george hancock stefanAs I was driving on a recent morning, I listened to some radio hosts discuss loud people in expensive restaurants. The whole discussion was started by one of the announcers who went out to dinner and had an awful time. This terrible evening was not because of the excellent food, the ambiance of the restaurant, or the meticulous service provided by the waitress. It was the loud person seated next to them who ruined her evening. Neither the waitress nor her date had the tenacity to ask him to speak more quietly, so she fought to hear her date while listening to a conversation that she did not want to hear.

For the next hour, caller after caller told the host about their own experiences with people who were rich enough to go to expensive restaurants but not wise enough to know that not everyone wants to hear their stories. The waiters and waitresses do not want to ask them to quiet down because they want to get their tip. The most disconcerting thing was the number of people who said they preferred to leave the restaurant because they do not want to antagonize the loud person. If they had politely asked the person at the next table to speak more quietly, they were afraid that the loud person would become worse and they would see other unwanted qualities.

Many of the trains going from Philadelphia into the suburbs now have quiet cars where you cannot talk on your phone. Many people who have worked from morning until evening prefer silence on their ride home and the conductor is not afraid to tell people to move to a different section.

At a recent graduation, the speaker mentioned that many of us cannot stand silence because we have become addicted to noise. If the music is not loud or we cannot talk at top volume, we feel that people have interfered with our rights. We believe we should be heard by those who want to hear us and by those who do not want to hear us. But civilization is about our rights and the rights of others. Long ago, people lived on their own farms or on large plots of land. But as we started to move into cities and discovered we had neighbors, a new set of guidelines were developed. When we break those guidelines, we reveal our rude behavior or our barbarity.

But people have been taught that this rude, loud behavior is acceptable. When they were young, their parents encouraged them to speak everything on their mind and to speak it loudly. They were encouraged to always be assertive and not to worry about the comfort of others. There is a story about a famous writer who would write at least one novel per year. His friend wrote him a letter to say that not every thought that came to his mind should be published. In fact, publishing every word weakened his position as a more exquisite novelist.

Paul writes in one epistle that we should consider others better than ourselves. Consideration for the other person is extremely important in civilized society, unless we want to return to barbarity.