Civility important quality for today’s society

Published 8:08 pm Tuesday, May 29, 2018

read an article in a recent issue of “The Christian Science Monitor Weekly” (May 14, 2018) titled “Key link in US-North Korea talks.” Referring to the vicious name-calling of President Trump and Mr. Kim Jong-un, the writer stated that name-calling in itself has been mutually destructive and has heightened the very military tensions they now seek to lessen. The writer goes on to that if the talks are to be helpful, if they occur, the two leaders must agree to abide by the informal norms of civility that have long served as the guardrails of peace between people and nations.

I couldn’t agree more. Civility is defined as an act or expression of politeness or courtesy, the state of being civilized.

Civility is not only a key to those talks between the two leaders, it is an important ingredient for people who desire to live in a civilized society.

For sure, there are plenty of people all around who act civil, and we thank God for them. In essence, they bring hope to the possibility of living together in community.

At the same time, there seems to be an ever increasing number of people who do not converse or act with civility, and we are becoming more and more aware of them, almost on a daily basis. In all honesty, incivility is a growing problem in our culture, and if left unchecked will further lead to America’s ultimate decline.

Speaking in a special lecture labeled “The Case for Civility-and why our Future Depends on It,” Os Guinness, English author, social critic and prominent speaker, states “The right to believe anything does not mean that anything anyone believes is right. The first half of that sentence is a matter of freedom of conscience, whereas the second is a matter of nonsense…what someone believes may be muddle-headed, it may be socially disastrous, or it may even be evil in its consequences. What civility means is that when we disagree, we do so within a civil framework.”

Though Os Guinness didn’t say this, when I think of disagreeing in a civil framework, these thoughts immediately come to mind-respectfully listening to differing views, thinking independently and not necessarily as part of the crowd, placing the welfare of the whole over the particular interest of the party or group, refraining from name-calling or ridicule or mean-spiritedness or violence, refusing to assassinate another’s character or difference.

Above all, it is remembering that everyone is created in the image of God and of sacred value.

Os Guinness continued on in his lecture to point out ways we can work together toward a solution to the incivility of our culture. It’s amazing how an outsider who loves our country can be so astute in his thoughts, and I want to share three of them with you.

First, Guinness shares that a successful resolution to our incivility requires courageous leadership.

There is simply no leadership on this issue at the highest level, and all the best thinking is at levels that are culturally insignificant.

Second, the Englishman states that a successful resolution of this civility issue requires vision. The vision has to be argued tirelessly in a way that captures the moral imagination, to inspire people to rise up and break with the tired and fruitless ways of a culture-warring that have dominated public life for a half a century. Is no one tired of this?

Third, Guinness goes further and declares that a successful resolution of this issue requires a practical application to the troubled spots. He mentions the two main trouble spots as being public policy debates and public education. He mentions that while we have suffered in the last 50 years a general crisis in our public schools, we have also suffered a lamentable crisis in citizenship education.

Guinness is calling for a return to the great principles that founded this nation, and making them the “habits of the heart” for our school children.

As I previously mentioned, though Os Guinness is an outsider who admires America, I think he is spot-on in the solutions to the incivility of our modern day culture.

The point of this article is to say that civility is another bedrock of community existence. Whatever else, civility reduces discord, prevents personal attacks, teaches children proper lessons and promotes good will.

There is great power in being kind, polite and courteous.

A kind grandmother always said,“Everybody can’t be the smartest person in town, but all of us can be courteous and considerate of the other person.”

Again, there is great power in being kind, polite and courteous.

If you’ll try it, you’ll see.