Oct. 5 ~ Civility supports the dignity of all persons by allowing all to be heard. #civility
*It’s easy to try to shout over someone. It’s easy to judge someone as not worthy of being heard. Give the gift of hearing someone out. Dignity is a mutual possession, we cannot deny it to one and save it for another.
There is a difference between allowing someone to speak, and listening to them. We have all been in situations where we had a voice, but no one else had ears. A great measure of dignity is afforded to both the speaker and listener when a person is given the gift of being heard.
Letting people speak is a good thing… it is respectful and civil. And it is usually for the most part passive. When we really listen we move from passive to active. Look at the other person, make eye contact, set aside distractions.
Don’t just try to think of the quickest, strongest retort while someone speaks. Instead, listen and let their words be fully spoken, fully heard, and then have a moment to their own. Taking time like this can help both the speaker and listener understand what was said. It’s also amazing how an active, attentive listener can help the speaker focus on their words for greater clarity and efficacy.
We’re talking about actual communication happening! That’s a good thing! It’s a great thing! It’s an affirming partnership even in disagreement.
Oct. 3 ~ Civility requires more of us than just winning… it requires connection with the other. #civility
And I don’t mean that quite as mystical as it might sound. I mean really, we are required to connect with the other person. It may be more fun to ridicule them or label them in ways that create distance between you, but that is not civil, not what brings ideas together, and certainly not what facilitates sharing and creation of new options and innovations.
Incivility says, “He’s Un-American!” or “She’s a Socialist!” Incivility believes that winning an argument at the cost of someone’s dignity is acceptable. Incivility divides so that we alone are good and right, and the other is evil and wrong.
Every four years in America we face “the most crucial election of our time.” Why do people speak like that? It’s simple. They want you afraid and prepared to win at all costs. When you are afraid that our society and civilization teeters every four years on the brink of destruction, then civil discourse sounds a bit passe and requires too much time to pursue. Instead, just rip and tear, and do what it takes to win.
That kind of thinking denies that you have anything in common with “the other,” the other person, the other party, the other idea, the other side. It takes a bit of effort, but we can step right over that kind of thinking. We can step right past it and realize vital connections that bring us together in ways that create friendship, collaboration and better options for our society. We are far more alike and connected than incivility can tolerate.
Proverbs 3:34, “He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.”
There is an undeniable stream of thought in scripture that highlights the thrill God feels in elevating the poor and disenfranchised, often at the cost of the rich and un-empathetic who have prospered while their neighbors suffer. It’s not a stream of thought that supports a hatred of rich people or a disdain for wealth, but certainly does remind us that God doesn’t judge our value based on our financial bottom lines. In contrasting generosity and greed Jesus famously said, “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” (Matthew 20:1-16)
So the Proverb above warns us against a pride which isolates us from God’s favor. God prefers a person to live in humility instead of an inflated idea of self. God favors the oppressed. I think it reflects on God’s character that the joy of the Divine is found in favoring the least able and most needful. God doesn’t sit back and revel in one person’s great accumulation of wealth and pride in self, but in the opportunity to lift another from despair or to reveal that person’s hidden and less known value and worth. I get a strong sense that humility is actually the inner wealth we carry and live, while pride is an infection that can grow from the accumulation of material wealth. I said “can,” not must.
God mocks the mockers. Among the lessons for civility we find in scripture, this one rings loud and clear. A prideful, disdainful attitude that mocks and decreases another’s value is not in line with the movement or favor of God. God isn’t laughing with you when you tear another person down. But a humility that reveals the worth of the other person is joining God in the Divine disposition.
I think civility will be a natural outgrowth of choosing to reveal and support the other person’s value and dignity. It doesn’t mean I have to agree with everyone, but I sure better not value myself over them. I can disagree with someone while still protecting the inherent value of their life, opinions and aspirations. It’s not just that God loves an under dog, God loves to fill gaps of inequity and oppression. Civility, and the humility from which it grows, will create fewer of those gaps by affirming and revealing the value and dignity of others.