This Maxim is simple on its face but not simple in practice. There are people who, by their actions, become difficult to show courtesy to. We live in a culture where courteous words and actions are also taken to be signs of weakness instead of the strength that this Maxim tells us they are.
Courtesy is defined as “excellence of manners or social conduct; polite behavior” and as “a courteous, respectful, or considerate act or expression.” Both of these definitions apply when we are looking at this Maxim with an eye to what it is telling us we need to do.
Polite behavior and considerate acts are the tools by which we maintain our social fabric. Without these things our behavior can become as damaging as sand in a wheel that is supposed to be lubricated. Caustic words tend to cause misunderstandings rather than fostering understanding. Polite behavior and words have the opposite effect in most cases as people want to listen for understanding.
When we show courteous behavior it is a sign that we are secure enough in ourselves to not have to use less considerate behavior in a false show of strength. When we use polite language instead of coarse language it shows that we care enough for meaning to use that language to convey it.
This Maxim is a basis for understanding between people and that is the basis for society’s functions. It is these functions that the Maxims seek to instruct us in.