Oct. 16 ~ My civility is not dependent on yours, or vice versa. #civility
*I want to brag on our 8th and 9th graders at St. John’s. We talked about this same same thing in class, and they totally get it. We were based in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:21-22, but also looked some good stuff from Paul and James: Ephesians 4:29, Romans 12:14-18 and James 3:10. I believe one student said that making sure we aren’t just returning incivility for incivility is the “adult” thing to do. Can we get that message sent to our presidential candidates?
Someone else being uncivil is never license for me to abandon civility in my responses. The need for civility, the responsibility to be civil, these are mine to carry and hold. The same is true for every person.
Civility breaks the cycles of violence in both actions and words. Civility gets a foot in the door and begins to change the kind of conversations we are having when we allow the other person’s incivility to not be met in kind… or when they grace us by overlooking our incivility.
So yeah, break the cycle. Ignore the incivility on another’s part. You and me, we can model and live civility whether everyone else follows along or not!
Oct. 2 ~ An opportunity of civility: one who disagrees with you is not necessarily evil or an “enemy.” #civility
*Four years later, this is an important point to be made. We don’t have to hate people who think differently from us. Being different shouldn’t automatically make us enemies, but can present us with an opportunity to learn. This doesn’t mean that I capitulate to other ideas or that lose my right to an opinion, or that I stop opposing ideas that I find destructive. This doesn’t mean that all ideas are equally valid and constructive. Civility will fundamentally change me, not someone who disagrees with me. Civility prepares me for discourse and debate. Lacking a need to hate another person leaves me free to imagine a time when can we work together.
That’s right, not everyone who thinks differently than you is evil, wrong, horrible or an enemy to fight and defeat. Incivility has a way of vilifying the other person and making any type of respectful sharing or discussion impossible.
The opportunity of starting from a place of not judging and condemning the other person allows us to listen better and to listen more fully. Once we decide an opposing idea or person is simply evil, there’s no recourse but to defeat it. If we allow the other person to be whole, genuine, and good, until proven otherwise, then we are able to ask good questions, get to know them, and to engage what they are saying for a better understanding.
In this way, should an idea (and even the person holding it) be found within our civil discourse to be lacking fundmental goodness, honesty or better intent, then we are far more ready to oppose the idea and present a better way. Incivility on our own part will have removed that opportunity.
Civility is the strongest foundation for debate.
Proverbs 12:16, “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.”
Truth is, not everything needs to be answered. Not every slight or offense needs to be acknowledged. Giving that satisfaction to every insult only validates the insult and often hands the reins of power to the other person. Incivility grows as the cycle of insult and response grows and continues.
Not every insult is even intentional. Take a deep breath. Buy yourself some time to chill out and reflect. And even if you figure that the insult, the other person’s incivility, was intentional… you can still just let it go. You know that thing Jesus said about “turning the other cheek” (Matthew 5:38-42) is maybe one of the most quoted and most misunderstood verses. Jesus didn’t say that we always let the accuser or the attacker have their way with us. Jesus said, “You have two cheeks, so use them both.” Go check it out… it’s in the context of Jesus pointing out how an “eye for an eye” and “tooth for a tooth” aren’t the only options we have for facing evil.
The eye and tooth thing was a restraining rule, it was meant to keep the aggrieved from unnecessarily escalating an offense. In other words, don’t take a whole head for an eye, or an arm for a tooth. But we’re so bad about managing our anger, we just keeping taking teeth and eyes until there’s nothing left for anyone. Slow things down… delay the fight… turn and present the other cheek.
We don’t need to be a people who leap to a fight. We don’t need to be a people who feed the trolls or the beast of incivility. We can leave that one to the foolish. It’s a hard teaching, found in both the proverb above and the words of Jesus. Being a victim of incivility does not license me to respond in kind.