Editor's note: Call it courtesy, kindness, manners, gallantry, or consideration: Civility takes on all these shades and guides us in treating each other with a sensitivity that takes respect to a new level. The following quotes reveal the wide array of civility's forms of expression.

Adopting the Manner of the Court
"The word courtesy actually comes from the word court. My dictionary defines courteous as 'marked by polished manners, gallantry, or ceremonial usage of a court . . . marked by respect and consideration of others.' To be courteous is to adopt the manners of the court to treat one another like royalty."
— Donald McCullough in Say Please, Say Thank You

"Your conduct in public should be marked by quiet dignity. The keynote of good manners is unobtrusiveness.

"When you are out in public, keep in mind three principles. The first is to treat everyone you meet with kindness. Your sensitivity toward those you meet may brighten their day.

"The second is to take no one for granted. Be aware of the people around you and their rights to the public space you share. Don't simply ignore the waitress, the sales clerk, or the bus driver; be sincerely grateful for all services and thank those who provide them.

"The third is to respect others. Be helpful to the elderly, the infirm, and the physically challenged.
— Mary Mercedes in A Book of Courtesy

The Art of Door Closing
"When I was a sixteen-year-old novice monk, my teacher taught me to open the door and close the door with one hundred percent of myself. One day, my teacher asked me to get something for him. Because I loved him very much, I was eager to do so, so I rushed to do this task and closed the door quickly.

"My teacher called me back: 'Novice, come back here.' I went back to him. I joined my palms and looked at him. He said, 'Novice, this time go out mindfully and close the door behind you mindfully.' That was the first lesson he gave me on the practice of mindfulness."
— Thich Nhat Hanh in The Art of Power

Basking in the Mystery of Others
"The quality of courtesy, understood in this deep way as the perception of the mystery of the other person, in our time, seems wholly superfluous. In life determined by science, technology, functionality, and material objects, proceeding directly to the matter at hand seems primary. No time for qualities that seem to have no functional purpose. Time cannot be squandered basking in the mystery of others or of ourselves. No time for such luxury."
— Robert Sardello in The Power of Soul

The Benchmark for Ethical Conduct
"Courtesy is the foundation for handling people and situations. It is the guideline for human relationships and the benchmark for ethical conduct. When we behave courteously, it is easier for us to maintain appropriate and harmonious relationships. Therefore, courtesy is a basic condition in getting along with others, and it must be cultivated from a young age. From our parents and teachers, we learn the proper manners between old and young, senior and junior. Having courtesy, we should always abide by these manners, so as not to err in dealing with people and situations."
— Master Hsing Yun in Keys to Living Well

The Best Way to Harmonize
"The best way to harmonize human relations is to practice the four means of embracing: 1) to give charity, 2) utter kind words, 3) act altruistically and beneficently, and 4) cooperate and adapt oneself to others. When we give charity, it makes no difference whether it is money and wealth or strength and words; it can gladden all and benefit our interactions with others. Praising, helping, and treating others equally are wonderful ways to handle our day-to-day affairs."
— Master Hsing Yun in Humanistic Buddhism

"You may not think that living with others is an art, but it is the finest and most difficult of arts. By learning it early in life, you can save yourself many unpleasant experiences.

"You can master this art only if you treat others with courtesy. Courtesy is a way of living inspired by thoughtfulness, consideration, and respect for others and for yourself."
— Mary Mercedes in A Book of Courtesy

"Consideration is the heart of good manners, and a courteous manner is a grace that every young person should acquire. Sympathy, sensitivity, and tact make you a desirable companion at home, in school, and at work."
— Mary Mercedes in A Book of Courtesy

Caught Up in Each Other's Humanity
"In Africa when you ask someone 'How are you?' the reply you get is in the plural even when you are speaking to one person. A man would say, 'We are well' or 'we are not well.' He himself may be quite well, but his grandmother is not well and so is not well either. Our humanity we know is caught up in one another's."
— Desmond Tutu in God Has a Dream

Compatible with Bravery
"Courtesy is compatible with bravery."
— Mexican Proverb in Frederic Brussat's Twitter Collection

Connecting to Spirit
"Even amenities such as holding the door for another person are the mechanical norms established as behavior which respects the spirit. The social order has a lot of problems and errors in it, but it is not always wrong. By showing even the most average courtesy, and doing it with awareness and a sense of responsiveness to the world, we are connecting to spirit in life."
— Daniel Singer and Marcella Weiner in The Sacred Portable Now

Courtesy First
"There are many aspects to courtesy. We should always pay attention to eye contact, listening skills, our behavior, speech, and facial expressions. All these should be proper and respectful. By working hard to gain acceptance, other people will become appreciative of who we are. When dealing with others, we should always remember that courtesy comes first."
— Master Hsing Yun in Let Go, Move On by Master Hsing Yun, Miao Hsi, translator, Cherry Lai, translator

Courtesy towards the Earth
"If the earth does grow inhospitable toward human presence, it is primarily because we have lost our sense of courtesy toward the earth and its inhabitants."
— Thomas Berry in Rummaging for God by Melannie Svoboda

"Throughout Celtic Christianity runs a constant sense of intimacy with the natural world and courtesy toward all its creatures."
— Vivienne Hull in Earth & Spirit, edited by Fritz Hull

Developing Humanness through Adab
"One of the most important guiding principles in the Sufi way of life is adab, which can be translated as courtesy, respect, appropriate behavior. Adab is not mere formality; it helps to create the context in which we develop our humanness. Every situation and relationship has its own adab: between students on the path, in relation to family members and elders, in relation to one's shaikh."
— Kabir Helminski in The Knowing Heart

"There is really no good English translation for adab. It means behaving well or good etiquette. It is acting with heedfulness, beauty, refinement, graciousness, and respect for others. The Koran teaches us the importance of acting beautifully. 'Do what is beautiful. God loves those who do what is beautiful.'"
— Robert Frager in Heart, Self, and Soul

"The whole tradition of adab, or traditional courtesy, manners, and comportment, plays a central role in making compassion, generosity, and the self-discipline and nobility that are inseparable from them a concrete reality."
— Seyyed Hossein Nasr in The Heart of Islam

"A term often used by Sufis is found also in most of the major languages of the Islamic peoples. It is adab, which means at once comportment, courtesy, culture, refined speech, literature, correct ethical attitudes, and many other concepts. It is really untranslatable and perhaps should be used in English in its Arabic form like terms such as karma and guru, which have entered English recently from Sanskrit, or jihad from Arabic. All traditional societies have tried to inculcate their own forms of adab within members of society from childhood, and Islamic civilization is no exception. For traditional Muslims, adab encompasses nearly all aspects of life from greeting people to eating to sitting in a gathering to entering a place of worship. As for quintessential adab, it has always been associated by Sufis with the actions and words of the Prophet himself. Adab is the means of controlling the passions, which affect and often originate human actions. It is also a way of formalizing human actions in such a way that they display harmony and beauty rather than disorderliness and ugliness."
— Seyyed Hossein Nasr in The Garden of Truth

Everyone's a Guest
"'Treat everyone as a guest' encourages us to rely on our natural instincts to treat others properly and graciously, respecting our work relationships by being genuinely available to others and extending our very finest to everyone we meet."
— Michael Carroll in Awake At Work

A Form of Gratitude
"To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven."
— Johannes A. Gaertner in Words of Gratitude by Robert A. Emmons and Joanna Hill

"Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy."
— Jacques Maritain in Frederic Brussat's Twitter Collection

Free of Cost
"Courtesy costs nothing."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson in Frederic Brussat's Twitter Collection

A Fundamental Dignity
"Courtesy celebrates the fundamental dignity of the person, of what it is to be a person. We defer our own affairs for a moment, not to dignify the affairs of the other person but to honor the person as a person, Courtesy operates, however, according to different laws than the laws of functional life. Courtesy takes detours, it squanders time, it lingers, it delays, it engages in the extravagant, the superfluous."
— Robert Sardello in The Power of Soul

The Garden of Eden
"When we sweep the street in front of a house in the dirtiest city in the country, we bring new order to the universe. We tidy the Garden of Eden. We make God's world new again."
— Joan Chittister in There Is a Season

The Gift of a Thank You
"This is a thank you for a thank you, and is often overlooked. When you get to the end of your rope, doing and doing for everyone else in your life, hearing a thank you can break the dam of pent-up emotions. Knowing that someone appreciates what you're doing can lift a terrific burden and is a gift in and of itself. One good turn deserves another. Sending a thank you in the form of a note or an email, or just a phone call, can mean the world."
— Addie Johnson in A Little Book of Thank Yous

"Saying thanks is more than good manners. It is good spirituality."
— Alfred Painter in Frederic Brussat's Twitter Collection

Honoring Another's Presence and Differences
"The virtue of courtesy concerns holding back one's own emotions — not repressing or denying them — but holding them in order to give a place for the soul life of the other person to be expressed. Certainly, the word 'courtesy' is related to the term 'to court,' which is to honor the presence of another, to outwardly acknowledge the person as a being of soul and spirit substance."
— Robert Sardello in The Power of Soul

"A courteous person will always make everyone around him feel at his best and most alive."
— Helen M. Luke in Kaleidoscope

"What speaks to me instead is to find ways to honor and respect our differences through hearing the nuances in each particular voice. How can I learn more about the other? How can I learn to appreciate those who are different from me?"
Kay Lindahl in The Sacred Art of Listening

How to Treat Your Children
"If you would be a wise parent
be careful in all you do and say.
Know that each action,
each word
has its effect.
Be alert and mindful,
living fully in each present moment.
Treat your children with courtesy
as you would treat a guest.
Be ready in a moment
to let go of one plan
and embark on another
if your inner voice so urges.
Have room within your heart
to hear the voice of both
your children
and your own spirit.
Do not expect fulfillment
from events or people
outside yourself.
Welcome and accept
things as they are.
Welcome and accept
children as they are.
Treat yourself with gentle care.
These qualities emerge naturally,
not by force of will."
— William Martin in The Parent's Tao Te Ching

"Among the many prerequisites for furthering imagination I would single out a least these three: first, that the parents or intimate caretakers of a child have a fantasy about that child; second, that there be odd fellows and peculiar ladies within the child's perimeter; and third, that obsessions be given courtesy."
— James Hillman in The Soul's Code

Increasingly Rare
"We live in a world where welcome and gentleness and civility are increasingly rare. Most of the conversation between strangers is terse and quick, and too many times it is cold and rude. It can even be that way, more often then we care to admit, among people who are not strangers. Such is the world we live in that we are almost stunned by hospitality and gentility whenever it breaks out around us. We are drawn to the people and to the places where we find such welcome in abundance."
— Robert Benson in Home by Another Way

An Intimate Sharing of Energy
"Toward the end of his life, Francis had an eye infection cauterized with a white-hot iron. Before the iron was applied, Francis asked the fire to be gentle with him. Courtesy is also a two-way street. Francis extended courtesy to Brother Fire but asked that the same courtesy be shown toward him. Such a profound sense of relatedness may surprise us, but it makes sense when we recall how intimately Francis shared the energy of the Source of all life."
— Wayne Simsic in Living the Wisdom of St. Francis

Love in Action
"There is no outward sign of courtesy that does not rest on a deep moral foundation.

"Courtesy is love in action."
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in From the Angel's Blackboard by Fulton J. Sheen

A Miracle and More
"Giving another the opportunity to pass me is something of a miracle all by itself, but there is even more. As he drove by, he waved at me. He waved at me!!! I was thrilled. I had done something for another person and he acknowledged it. I felt wonderful. I felt like a hero. I felt like I had pulled a tiny child from a burning building. I was a decent human being."
— Clarice Bryan in Driving to Nirvana

A Natural Instinct
"Just as jade has a natural tendency to break along elegant lines, Confucius observed that human beings have a natural instinct to behave decently toward one another. A kind gesture, a passing smile, a desire to help others, all spontaneously arise out of a basic human goodness or tendency to be decent. According to Confucius, this tendency, li, was the source of all proper and decent human behavior. Cultivating a profound respect for this human goodness, he taught, is at the very heart of leading a worthy life. Just as jade cutters respect the li of the stone, cultivating li in society is central to promoting integrity and human dignity, requiring commitment and discipline. By cultivating li, human decency is never taken for granted but is acknowledged, respected, and preserved throughout all human activity — especially at work. Otherwise, when li is ignored, men and women can find themselves following pointless ritual, obeying the letter but not the spirit of accounting rules, remaining loyal out of fear, and avoiding rather than shouldering responsibility.

"There are countless simple examples of how li in its utter humanness pervades our lives: giving directions to a disoriented tourist, returning a lost wallet, offering a seat to an elderly person, holding the elevator door for a colleague. Rather than being some grand philosophical notion from ancient China, li actually is our humanity at its most basic level — an instinct that guides us to be helpful, honorable, and gracious toward one another."
— Michael Carroll in Awake At Work

The Noblest Way
"People often neglect each other's needs. What we should do is cultivate our ability to comply with the wishes of others. Not going against the wishes of others is the highest practice and the noblest character anyone can have. ... Many eminent masters of Buddhism have done what others could not, such as 'letting spit dry on one's face' or 'purposely degrading one's own abilities.' ... Not going against another's wishes is indeed the highest wisdom we can have in dealing with worldly affairs and the noblest way to interact with others."
— Master Hsing Yun in Tending Life's Garden

Paying Attention to Life's Details
"Shantideva gives advice for benefiting others by paying attention to all the details of your life:
'Your spittle and your toothbrushes,
When thrown away, should be concealed.
And it is wrong to foul with urine
Public thoroughfares and water springs.'"
— Shantideva in No Time to Lose by Pema Chodron

"There are many occasions in life in which people are defeated in a competition. They lose elections, games of bridge, and sports events. However, even in defeat, they never lose their poise. In a basketball game, once a foul is called by the referee, a player will put up his/her hands to admit fault. Tennis players always shake hands after a match to exhibit their poise and etiquette. ...

"Poise is the result of cultivation, respect, and tolerance."
— Master Hsing Yun in Tending Life's Garden

"Refinement in worldly terms may refer to one's status in society and the manners associated with wealth and power. But in the spiritual life, refinement refers to the degree of mindfulness that one has concerning the actions of body, speech, and mind. When we practice mindful manners diligently, our way of speaking, interacting with others, and moving about will appear more gentle and calm."
— Thich Nhat Hanh in Joyfully Together

Respect for Things
"Interdependence is a living practice. Courtesy, manners, and right action are the expression of a practice that allows brotherhood to find expression. It is most characteristic of the Way of Love.

"This practice begins with respect. We can respect the carpet that is walked on, the cup that is drunk from, the candle that bears light. In times past a dervish wouldn't 'put out' a candle; he would 'put it to rest.' A dervish, knowing that the word dervish also means 'threshold,' always paused in remembrance before stepping over the threshold. In this respect for inanimate things is the recognition of an identity between the observer and what is observed. Although the material world is not taken as the final reality, it is considered a manifestation of the Spirit and therefore worthy of respect.

If the material world deserves our gratitude and respect, if the Sufis kiss the tea glass from which they drink, how much more respect do they owe to other creatures and beings? . . . It has been said by Muhammad, 'Humility is the foremost act of worship.' Inner selflessness manifests itself in one's actions. In traditional circles students don't turn their backs to a teacher, leader, or other respected person, and they do not stick their feet out directly toward another person. A thoughtful person offers a seat to any guest or older person and considers their comfort first. On this esoteric path there are certain manners to be observed, never as mere formality, but in remembrance of this fundamental respect."
— Kabir Helminski in Living Presence

The Result of Training
"Dissociating ourselves from others does not help us to become better people, improve our speech, or ensure that we walk our path in life smoothly. We need training and guidance in the skills we acquire in order to make a living, work, and get things done. ... Our morals, human relations, integrity, and virtues also need to be strengthened over time."
— Master Hsing Yun in Tending Life's Garden

Reverence towards All Creation
"As the spiritual leader of a brotherhood, Francis retranslated courtesy. Because all creation was interwoven, a divine family — a family that included even inanimate elements — each part of it deserved love and respect form another. He counseled his friars to be courteous to each other, to the poor, to people of every kind — and to all creation. After all, a courteous Creator gave us life; should we not show the same generosity by treating others, whether people or creatures, with reverence?"
— Wayne Simsic in Living the Wisdom of St. Francis

The Sacrament of Consideration
"Whenever people are crowded closely together in customer-filled stores at Christmas time or in modern apartment houses, they need to remember that we live on more than just bread. Our lives are also fed by kind words and gracious behavior. We are nourished by expressions like 'excuse me' and other such simple courtesies. Our spirits are also richly fed on compliments and praise; nourished by consideration as well as whole wheat bread. Rudeness, the absence of the sacrament of consideration, is but another mark that our time-is-money society is lacking in spirituality if not also in its enjoyment of life. Gracious behavior is due to the elderly, to the stranger, and to those who serve us. I do not here refer to house servants but to persons in service-related occupations. In countless ways we are waited upon, served, and cared for in our modern society. These service-persons are just that — persons and not robots. We express our belief in their personhood by the sacrament of courtesy. As well, we are enlivened and healed by that expression of respect, dignity, and gracious kindness that flows from the heart."
— Edward Hays in Pray All Ways

"Being courteous today simply makes sense. All of us will benefit."
— Karen Casey in All We Have Is All We Need

Serving God in Others
"Courtesy is, at one level, a type of civility that allows people to get along better. It also goes deeper than that, an acknowledgment of someone else's importance and worth. At its most profound level, it recognizes the inherent divinity of another. The fastest way to know God is to serve the God in someone else was the compelling teaching that drew me into the spiritual life. The conscious practice of civil courtesies is a way to exercise this teaching."
— Peter Reinhart in Bread Upon the Waters

Is God speaking
Why not be polite and
Listen to Him?"
— Daniel Ladinsky in Frederic Brussat's Twitter Collection

Serving the Roshi
I saw that I could bring the same mind I brought to serving the Roshi to serving each person: the same respect, courtesy, tenderness, and patience.
— Edward Espe Brown in Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings

The Sister of Charity
"Courtesy is one of the properties of God who gives his sun and rain to the just and the unjust by courtesy; and courtesy is the sister of charity by which hatred is extinguished and love is cherished."
— St. Francis of Assisiin From the Angel's Blackboard by Fulton J. Sheen

Striving for Virtue
"Courtesy or its lack may be a matter of custom, but as it both reflects and conditions our own minds we ought to take it seriously and strive for virtue right here in these ordinary, mundane moments."
— Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano in Longing for Certainty

Sweetening Heavenly Judgments
"The Baal Shem Tov instructed even simple Jews to speak well of one another — praising other people, complimenting them, excusing other people's faults, and so on — because doing so sweetened the heavenly judgments."
— Yitzhak Buxbaum in The Light and Fire of the Baal Shem Tov

True Presence
"True presence requires that we be attentive to what is happening. Here and now. This is a basic and profound courtesy. By such courtesy we are deeply transformed."
— Gunilla Norris in Sharing Silence

The Way of Little Things
"In comparison to courage, or love, or compassion, courtesy seems close to trivial. In some ways, courtesy is indeed quite small. This quality of seeming cosmically insignificant may actually make courtesy one of the most important of the virtues; it introduces us into the small way, the way of little things rather than large, high, and lofty imaginations.

"Courtesy adds an extremely important tone to the whole circle of virtue; it keeps our imagination from soaring into heights that have nothing to do with our daily lives, or our ongoing relationships with others, or the mundane events that, in truth, occupy us most of the time. Courtesy is the virtue that removes the illusion of loftiness that can infect our imagination of the virtues and locates their action in the heart of the smallest deeds of our lives."
— Robert Sardello in The Power of Soul

World Citizen
"If one be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows you are a citizen of the world."
— Francis Bacon in The Ascent of the Mountain of God by Edward Hays