Would You Be So Kind As To….

I have never considered myself to be a particularly polite person. Although I do not relish interpersonal disagreements and tend to exercise considerable emotional restraint so as to avoid unpleasant scenes with those people I am around, I have frequently found myself to be an awkwardly honest person whose statements appear to violate the expectations that other people have for privacy, and issues of politeness have long been fascinating for me because such behavior does not come easily for me in the way that it does for other people. To give but one example that has long entertained me [1], I have often tended to think of entering and exiting buildings and rooms out of tactical reasons, while such matters are of great interest to those relatives of mine who have been more concerned about rules of politeness and hospitality that bias towards entering through the front door if one is a guest, to give an example. Even so, I frequently find myself involved in diplomatic positions with others despite considering myself to be the sort of person who is by nature ill-suited to be a courtier and not given to intense flattery of others.

Nevertheless, I consider there to be a distinct difference between the skills of a diplomat and the skills of a courtier. For one, it is helpful to remember that diplomats are outsiders when it comes to the realms they interact with. A diplomat, in our world at least, is sent from a nation to another nation to engage in discourse and to provide a place where interaction between the host nation and diplomat’s nation may occur. These actions may include spying, subtle diplomatic pressure, fond and friendly relationships, the defense of economic interests, and so on. While diplomats are certainly expected to be polite, they are also required to represent the interests of their home country and thus they have some leeway on how they can represent those interests based on the situation. In addition, they are also expected to have diplomatic immunity from abuse and harassment and other problems, which can and has been abused by diplomats when it comes to matters like parking and driving tickets, and so on. What must be recognized, though, is that diplomacy is meant to serve the interests of the country that sent the diplomat, who is under constraints based on the commitments that one has to one’s home country and which may include a less that diplomatic tone if circumstances warrant it.

It is different for the courtier. If the diplomat is a polite and generally friendly outsider, the courtier is the consummate insider looking for power within a realm. The courtier seeks to serve his or her own interests by gaining power, and this often requires a high degree of flattery of those who have power so as to ingratiate oneself with those who have power in order to rise in one’s position and become powerful for oneself. It is telling that believers are to be considered as ambassadors for the Kingdom of heaven but are not told to be courtiers within that kingdom or within any other realm or institution. As ambassadors we seek the well-being of the Kingdom of God among the rebellious nations of mankind. It is a courtier who seeks power, while an ambassador serves at the pleasure of their realm. That difference in attitude means a lot, since while a diplomat is supposed to practice one’s task with considerable prudence and wisdom and discretion, there is honor in being an ambassador that is not the case for being a courtier. And woe be it to the courtier who is found out for seeking personal and selfish interests that harm the well-being of the ruler who is being flattered, or when a courtier serves a realm that has fallen, as such situation lead to drastic and serious consequences.

It is therefore worthwhile to ponder how it is that we deal with matters in real life. We may frequently be called on to exercise diplomacy as a result of the positions we hold at work or in our efforts to defend the best interests of our family or church or other institutions. As diplomats we may be required to restrain ourselves in order to serve those interests, but we can rest assured that in the eyes of God and in those people who matter such restraint and tact will be viewed highly as it serves the interests of others involved and the institutions one is serving. On the other hand, the courtier is to be viewed with considerable disrespect, as the courtier’s motive is not to serve others but to serve oneself. What is restraint for the diplomat is cunning for the courtier. What is politeness and tact for the diplomat is deception and manipulation for the courtier. After all, the diplomat is on the outside and does not seek to be on the inside, and so can be respected as it is no rival for preferment and position. The courtier, though, makes potential enemies of anyone else who seeks power within a realm or institution because they seek what others want, and want what others seek. This has serious consequences, and makes the courtier a subject of conflict while the diplomat’s job is to make and preserve peace where it can be done with honor. In striving to be better diplomats in a world that sorely needs such skills, let us not find ourselves being courtiers.

[1] See, for example:


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in International Relations, Musings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Would You Be So Kind As To….

  1. Catharine Martin says:

    Excellent! Very well done! Regardless of what situation we are in and who we are dealing with, we always represent God. The differentiation between diplomat and courtier was spot on. You spelled out the difference between our living as a free-will offering to God (God’s will) verses the self-willed carnally-minded way of man.

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