Being Rude By Saying "I Don't Mean To Be Rude"

By Dr Terry W Dorsett 

A few weeks ago I was eavesdropping on a conversation of a group of teenagers that had gathered after our church youth group. No, I am not a stalker. But I realized a long time ago that I can learn a lot if I stand a few feet away and just listen to teens talk. If I barge right into the conversation and start sharing my ideas, teens often stop sharing theirs. That seldom helps me learn what they are really thinking and makes me less effective in my efforts to assist them in navigating the difficulties of life. That means that sometimes eavesdropping can be helpful in learning how teens really think and relate to each other.

This particular conversation was between some girls who were not getting along very well. The tension between them had been building for a few weeks, so I thought I would try to help them resolve their issues once I understood them better by listening in. As the conversation continued to become more and more tense, one of the girls said "I'm not trying to be rude but..."
and then went on to say some things that were extremely rude. Her tone of voice, her body language, and the words she used, all indicated that she was indeed being rude and that she both knew she was being rude and that she meant to be rude. Her "I'm not trying to be rude..." introduction was just a ploy to be able to say whatever mean thing she wanted while pretending to be nice. As one can imagine, the conversation did not end well.

Though this particular incident involved teens, I have observed similar conversations among adults. Far too often starting a sentence with "I'm not trying to be rude but..." is just a thinly disguised way to be rude and get away with it. While sometimes it might not be intentional, most often it is. Such rudeness, thinly disguised as politeness, fools no one and does not accomplish anything positive.

Society in general has allowed this increased level of rudeness to be acceptable. As a pastor, many of my interpersonal interactions are with religious people who are supposed to know better, yet somehow do not. I have made the issue of rudeness a key emphasis in my ministry. The rest of the world may treat each other with rudeness, but we Christians should aspire to higher standards. We Christians should aspire to treat each other with dignity and respect as brothers and sisters in the family of God.

If we do not mean to be rude, then we should not BE rude. If we realize we are being rude, we should stop mid-sentence and apologize. After all, none of us are perfect and we all sometimes say things in the heat of the moment that we regret. What we cannot do is just continue to be rude, thinking that we are fooling others into believing that we are polite. People see through our thinly disguised comments.

Rudeness will not gain us friends nor bring honor to the Savior. As Christians, we should strive to be friendly (Proverbs 18:24) and we should seek to bring honor to the Savior in all that we say and do (Collossians 3:17). This gives us all something to think about the next time we are having a tense conversation with someone else and are tempted to be rude while pretending to be polite.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Terry W. Dorsett holds a Masters in Religious Education and a Doctorate in Administration. He oversees the work of the Baptist denomination in Vermont. He is widely sought after as a speaker in area churches. His innovative and fresh approach makes him an effective communicator with young adults. He is the author of two books and a frequent contributor to Baptist Press. His blog may be found at

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