Bruised Ego and Bad Manners

Last night I sang a couple of songs at a fundraising banquet in Winnipeg.  My buddy Paul  asked me to sing.  I happened to have the night free, and I have great history and respect  for the organization, so I was more than happy that I could oblige.

I must admit to being a little surprised when it came time for me to sing, that out of about 500 upper middle-class, well-educated attendees, only a handful stopped talking long enough to even acknowledge I was there.  I could actually follow the conversation of the table right in front of me.

I felt bad for the organizers… and for Paul. I think they were more embarrassed than I.

This is not my first experience of its kind.  Singing at a recent banquet for a local hospital, I watched in disbelief as a similar crowd was almost revelrous throughout the entire program –  at no point, were the MC’s able to get their attention.


First, let me assure you that I really don’t expect that everyone should like my music. And I also don’t mind if I have to endure the occasional ego-spank.  It is the nature of my vocation to receive an inordinate amount of praise for simply doing my job.  My wife,  a 30 year veteran of teaching (and very good at it, I might add)  has not  once received a standing ovation for her work in the classroom.  My mechanic, also very good at what he does, may get the occasional thankyou, but I’m quite sure has never been asked for an autograph.

Artists, tending to be somewhat insecure, are vulnerable to the inherent vanities of our trade. In our day, there is an unholy alliance between the arts and celebrity culture  which has all but decimated the guild and  ruined some fine artists. So I will gratefully receive my thumping as a corrective, realigning gift.

However, I am very concerned that we are increasingly living in a culture where basic respect and manners are not assumed to be a feature of being an adult in “advanced” society. I fear that we are becoming unmoored from a very  “conservative” social anchor that understands every human being to be, first and foremost, God’s good idea and therefore (by nature) worthy of positive regard and respect.

I may have been less sensitive to this had we not recently endured the gong show affectionately known as the Presidential Race. What horrified me the most was that Christians, of all people, if not setting the pace, at least kept pace with a willful and malicious culture of malignment and mis-information.

Manners and respect. If we toss these, many other goods will soon tumble after.  I’m just sayin’…

On a positive note, this morning, on my way to work, I stopped  at my neighborhood coffee shop for some fuel. As I walked in, an old acquaintance greeted me with a warm hug.  Immediately, the old codger at the table beside said, “This gentleman here,” gesturing to a rather beleaguered fellow across from him, “is hug deprived. Do you mind…?”  My friend enthusiastically embraced the weary  fellow and we all experienced a mutual moment of grace.  And then, as I approached the counter, the barista shyly addressed me by name and and whispered, “I was serving at the banquet last night… I like your singing.” I thanked her and asked her name, and we shared a brief moment of mutual, positive regard. Nice! Now we have names to greet each other with every time I go in for a coffee. That alone, is worth my two songs-worth of time.

True story.

listen to song below by clicking on the song title…

lyric Steve Bell and Diana Pops  music Steve Bell and Mike Janzen

It’s not about science
Or benefits the dead contest
But there’s some strange reliance yet
On particles to fix the mess

Who knows if this thing we call life
Looks fine in another one’s eyes
Or bellies up with the goods everyone can approve of
One thing that I’ve learned in my time
You can’t win if you have to draw lines
When it comes to the struggle to show and to prove love

Oh – It’s always been about love…

It’s not about borders
Borders have their place no doubt
But who gave the orders
To abandon hope for common ground

One thing…




The song, About Love is found on  Steve’s album KINDNESS which can be viewed and purchased HERE…


34 thoughts on “Bruised Ego and Bad Manners

  1. I think you’re right. Respect is sadly lacking in our society. I took a friend once to a program at a senior home, she texted the whole time. People aren’t always even smart enough to not chat in during a church service????

  2. I’m disappointed to hear the crowd didn’t realize what a gift it is to hear your voice, Steve…. although Darryl and I have been to fundraisers and witnessed what you are describing first-hand (with the great Sophie Milman performing, may I add!). Anyways, good luck with your shows and we’re looking forward to hanging out with you over the holidays 🙂

  3. Totally agree with you Steve. Here’s what the english poet Hilaire Belloc had to say on the subject:


    Of Courtesy, it is much less
    Than Courage of Heart or Holiness,
    Yet in my Walks it seems to me
    That the Grace of God is in Courtesy.

    On Monks I did in Storrington fall,
    They took me straight into their Hall;
    I saw Three Pictures on a wall,
    And Courtesy was in them all.

    The first the Annunciation;
    The second the Visitation;
    The third the Consolation,
    Of God that was Our Lady’s Son.

    The first was of St. Gabriel;
    On Wings a-flame from Heaven he fell;
    And as he went upon one knee
    He shone with Heavenly Courtesy.

    Our Lady out of Nazareth rode –
    It was Her month of heavy load;
    Yet was her face both great and kind,
    For Courtesy was in Her Mind.

    The third it was our Little Lord,
    Whom all the Kings in arms adored;
    He was so small you could not see
    His large intent of Courtesy.

    Our Lord, that was Our Lady’s Son,
    Go bless you, People, one by one;
    My Rhyme is written, my work is done.

  4. Doing as many private functions as I do, I have grown used to the casual attitude people have to live music. I consider it a small victory when 1 person goes out of their way to say they liked it. Oddly that person can sometimes be one of the biggest talkers.

  5. Great article. You held my attention the entire time!
    I especially appreciate your humility, which as always shines through.
    When I drive the school bus, I am still surprised by the respect, courtesy and even appreciation expressed by the group of catholic high school students I serve. It is a small ray of hope in this pessimist’s soul.
    I do believe that we can cultivate these virtues, as that old codger did, and the elementary students I drive are my laboratory.(Jury’s still out 😉

  6. I’m glad you mentioned this. I have noticed this same kind of behavior in many churches, and it saddens and frustrates me. You worded things very well.

  7. I too was at that banquet and was appalled by several things, including the opulence of the meal that could have fed 3 times the number of people there. What went into the garbage could have been a feast at the soup kitchen where I helped cook for 100 people today. And, yes, the rudeness of the audience during Steve’s singing was disturbing to those at my table too. Habitat for Humanity is a good project and worthy of support. It’s too bad a 25th anniversary celebration seemed to be dedicated more to feeding larger egos than Steve’s rather than celebrating what’s been done and looking forward to what’s to come.

  8. Dear Mr. Bell:

    Thanks for your music; it sure is a good gift! Your article on ‘Bruised Ego and Bad Manners was a blessing. Why? I like to see brothers and sisters catching glimpses of the Kingdom simply because they are looking forward to the better country. I am a Christian brother working in Iraq, and even among the brethren, walls get built by nothing more than the air of this world.

    Cool that it was the servants at the coffee shop that hadn’t grown weary of love. We mount up, but not on earthly horses!

    Ride the wind: Diego

  9. Hi Steve,

    We’ve never met, but I know that we have mutual friends in the music field.

    I was very disappointed to read about your experience, but frankly I was not all together surprised at the ignorance that many people display. I, too, fear that a sad trend of poor manners has developed. In similar situations where I have been trying to listen to someone either perform or simply speak in some type of group setting, I have simply told people to be quiet. I will always do so when someone chooses to carry on in a disturbing manner when I am trying to focus on what someone is performing or simply saying.

    Sadly, education in the formal sense is, as you no doubt know, not any guarantee of civility. Such people would not have patience with others conducting themselves in a similar fashion if they were performing or speaking. So, it’s rather ironic that they do not extend the same courtesy. If he/she is not interested, then my suggestion to such people would be to leave.

    Anyway, I have seen you perform recently at Doug Evan’s memorial on August 31 and I truly enjoyed your work.

    Take care.

    Paul Newsome

  10. *stands up* BRAVO STEVE! Eloquently put!

    As a violinist, you know that I play for a number of events where we are just background music. However there are times when I am hired as a featured performer either as a soloist (violin or voice) or within the context of an ensemble. But when the focus is on the performer, there is a certain amount of decorum expected from the crowd. And I too have found that it has been the same as what you have experienced. There is no respect for the live performer anymore with “high falooten” gigs. Rekka frekka is all I can say. Those are my two-Yosemite Sam-cents for the day.

    Blessings on you Steve! (Hope we can gig together sometime because YOU ROCK!)

    Your fiddle friend,

  11. Hi Steve,
    We have discovered through our many moons of sharing in music that the most important thing to remember is that no matter how many people are in attendance or attending to our musical offering, that we have an Audience of One and His attention is always focused on our offering of praise. The sweet side of this story, for me, is that a person that the rank and file of the evening would have discounted as unimportant was blessed and received a gift from The King from Whom all blessings flow. Keep on keeping on, dear Brother in Christ you are a blessing to us, indeed.

  12. So sorry that you had to experience such rudeness, Steve. As a public speaker I know how that must have felt. All the more frustrating because your music is wonderful. I put your Christmas CD on my wish list – can’t wait to get it. Blessings, Marci

  13. I recently sat in transfixed bliss at your Vernon concert! (third one of yours) I found your post quite interesting and timely as I’ve been beefing about my recent 40th (gulp) high-school reunion. The organizing committee could NOT get the attention of the lively group long enough to “get a word in edgewise”. I had to restrain myself from doing the “Mother SHHHH”. It was sad. Your remarks hit the mark! Our society is NOT evolving in an upward climb.

  14. Steve it’s humble of you to admit to having your ego bruised but you are right about the loss of decent manners. I find people increasingly rude, without thought for the well-being or feelings of others. I believe it’s a sign of the times and is prophetic really. “The love of many will wax cold”, “man will be lovers of themselves”, etc. In our ever-increasing world of instant everything and constant communication, people are losing something special. The ability to truly connect on a personal level with God and man. I find people increasingly insular and losing even basic social skills and manners. Heaven help us.

  15. I like this. No singer likes to be background music. It helps me to know that even Steve Bell gets his share of ignoring. That means it’s definitely not about the quality of music, but, as you pointed out so well, the rudeness of the people.

  16. I remind myself frequently “When the student is ready, the teacher will come”. They don’t know what they are doing – so keep the faith – keep doing what you are doing and be confident that teaching begins with an action.

  17. Beautifully written Steve! Here’s to more manners, thoughtfulness, respect and kindness in this coming year. And LISTENING to each other.

  18. I totally agree with you regarding the deterioration in respect and generally gracious manners toward others. A sad sign of society. It behoves us to see out and enjoy warmth and tenderness when it is demonstrated today. Thank you for commenting! God bless your heart, head and hands today!

  19. Good morning Steve;
    Didn’t seem cranky to me. Need a hug by the way?
    I hope the disrespect wound is healing, I’m glad no one has yet posted, “I’m sorry, you were saying??” 🙂
    Blessings on you arm, schedule, and art.

    Oh, don’t worry about me. I played clubs for a decade. I’ve been ignored by tens of thousands… 🙂 My lament is not for me, but rather about the spirit of the age. – SB

  20. Regarding the noisy crowd, I think it’s most irritating if you aren’t expecting it. We perform in a number of situations, before both attentive crowds and ones that are anything but. As long as we know what we’re getting into (and as long as they’re not ALL noisy situations) it’s not as offensive.

    Jim McLennan (the Drumheller Circle guy from Alberta who performs with his, uh, “daugher.”)

  21. Thanks for the story, Steve! It struck a chord (pun intended?!): I recently played at part of an annual gathering of church leaders/representatives in Atlantic Canada, during which I think perhaps 5 people (out of a few hundred) even made eye contact with me, while everyone else chatted, walked around, and drank punch. I felt like’white noise’ (and briefly contemplated doing an acoustic version of an AC/DC song to see if anyonewould noticed!) However- like you- I had a lady come up to me after I was finished and thanked me for playing. Empty compliments and obligatory platitudes are both unecessary and crass… but it is nice to have people at least stop and acknowledge the fact that you’re there. Shalom, my friend!

  22. I am saddened by the darkness of spirit that seems to be growing in people. All you have to do is look at the videos of Americans shopping on ‘Black’ Friday; it’s almost barbarous.
    I wonder if people forget how to be courteous and respectful because we communicate on the surface level through Internet communities, text messages, and tweets. When we get in a true ‘social atmosphere’ are we so hungry for actual face-to-face interaction that we become like undisciplined animals?
    Social skills are caught as well as taught. And because subtle body signals and facial clues are lost in a digitally connected world, we are not aware that we have offended someone, been insensitive, or even rude. Ask a group of sixth graders what ‘rude’ means and you may not be able to get a definition. Ask them what ‘respect’ means and expect even more confusing answers.
    We all know that there are growing examples where the elderly are no longer respected, children are considered an inconvenience, homes are filled with family members who barely know each other, and marriages are throw-away relationships, started on the foundation of a huge party instead of a commitment to vows. Hence, in my opinion, the darkness of the soul increases.
    In my mind there is the small, growing realization that all too soon Christians may face persecution by the masses of spiritually dead/dying people, those whose souls hold no shadow of lightness that comes from knowing a loving God.
    I pray that we see a great outpouring of the power of the Holy Spirit, including a revival, before the darkness becomes too heavy. My soul is sad in many ways, longing for a world where everyone loves the Lord God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and their neighbor as themselves.
    To that I add, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus”.

  23. Greetings Steve. I must comment on your “cranky” blog… I too have been quite upset in the last decade or so about the lack of respect of some members of our society. You give too much respect to those you referred to as “500 upper middle-class, well-educated attendees”. It just goes to prove those that society may view as the upper-middle well-educated people are perhaps merely overly text-book-educated individuals not just people of true social graces and good old-fashioned manners! They can have their education and money, I’ll take caring folks anytime.Shame, shame on those individuals, to take for granted the messages that your performances provide. They truly missed out.
    On another note, having moved away from Winnipeg after 26 years and 5 years under my belt here in southern Ontario, I had the pleasure of finally seeing you once again at the Park Playhouse & Performing Arts Centre in Cobourg on Nov. 1st. It was a true long-awaited blessing and present to hear you again. Although the crowd was nowhere near your 500 in Winnipeg, we were captive, hanging on your every word – you had that crowd’s full attention. Thank you so very, very much. Please feel free to come back in our area soon. Joy and blessings to you and yours. Sincerely, Cindy Hoover

  24. Hi Steve, My family and I love your music – it truly makes our lives richer.
    You did well to raise the issue of our society’s expected manners and showing of respect. I was embarrassed at a banquet here in Regina five years ago, when people continued talking and eating during your performance. You deserve much better! I wonder if you should be more cautious about agreeing to perform to an audience that may be distracted by food and visiting. I much prefer the intimate connection you create with audiences in a concert setting.

  25. I hear ya Steve. I have suffered many a night through this same ego beating. To think I am only 5 years into this career, I am sure I’ve got a lot more spankings coming my way! Ha Ha!! I know that I am owed nothing and as you say there are many more professions that deserve attention and adulation before me singing my songs, but sometimes the good folks out there need to hear a few words such as you’ve put here.

  26. My wife and I were in the 2nd row at your Victoria concert on the 16th (My birthday present). I promise I did not talk and as a matter of fact, I think you three held the entire audience spell bound the whole time. After reading your blog I was worried cause I’d heard that a famous guy from Winnipeg would be singing at the Grey Cup and I naturally assumed it would be you. I’d heard they could be a tough crowd and after what you’d been through it might be rough. Luckily it was some other guy so you were off the hook. Careful when they ask you though it’s not exactly Sunday morning at St Mary’s at those things if you know what I mean. Love you Steve, love the new album, praying for your wrist.

  27. Steve. What you are experiencing is an ever burgeoning phenomenon of our society. This one eyed monster is a heightened sense of entitlement fueled by pride and self righteousness. For a group to carry on as you describe is quite interesting as I have never seen or en mass before. This phenomenon knows no gender, group or level of affluence. It simply grows and consumes. It goes along with scripture and takes form in “every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Sorry to hear it was as bad as it was for you.

  28. What can you do but pray and say “Father forgive them. For they know not what they do.”

    Pride is the only disease that makes everyone else sick.

  29. I hear you. I experienced the same at the graduation ceremony for my Master’s Degree in Education from a well-respected university. There I was surrounded by current and future teachers exhibiting behavior we would never tolerate from students – laughing, joking and talking. It was so loud I could barely hear those on the podium. I was so embarrassed.

  30. Steve

    Having shared your experience when teaching a Sunday morning congregation, albeit to a less rude degree, I have found that I would rather have people openly and honestly disregard (even disrespect) me than to have them look right at me while their hearts were far from me and from the teaching I was hoping came from the heart of Jesus Himself.

    Which raises this question in my pea brain… is this [what seems to be an] increasing lack of civility really as new a phenomenon as we might think? Didn’t Jesus experience similar audience-wide disinterest during many of His own moments in the spotlight? I can’t think of any mentions in the Gospels — not directly anyway — but there are those accounts of Jesus doing some mind reading as He spoke publicly and finding the thoughts of at least some of his ‘listeners’ to be far from Him or His subject matter. For instance, how does privately contemplating Jesus’ demise correspond to the immediate teaching of this same Jesus? Hmmm.

    Well, even if I’m stretching to make a point, I think I would say that if any of us would humbly seek to speak for Jesus, we should expect a response very much like what He experienced Himself. Perhaps, rather than lamenting a clear lack of manners, we would be better served by thanking Jesus that no one took up stones to throw st us — at least, not yet.

  31. Dear Steve,

    I just bought this CD in Dec with the bundle included with Keening for Dawn. Just to let you know I told everyone on my Christmas card list about your new CD and gave some to my friends for presents. I went to your concert in Ottawa on Dec 2 with a friend and we loved it . Thank you for your music and I played Keening for Dawn almost every day in Advent.

    Anne Mimee

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