Civility- Why Not Give It A Try?

I’ll never know how he remained calm and de-escalated the situation, but he did.  Many years ago, I was visiting one of my church members at his place of business.  As the store was about to close on a Saturday afternoon, a disgruntled patron walked in, and began to yell at the owner.  He furiously attacked and hurled expletives.  I happened to be in the back room, and the customer had no idea of my presence.  But as the barrage of vile flowed from this guy’s mouth, I couldn’t help but focus on my friend’s reaction.  Most would have lashed back at the uncontrolled man and put him “in his place.”  This escalation could have ratcheted up the situation and may have led to a more difficult result.  But thankfully, that was not the church member’s response.  Instead, in a soothing, humor laced tone, he literally brought a peaceful spirit into the altercation, as the angry customer became tranquil in his demeanor.  My friend brought civility to an uncivilized episode. Lately, it seems that incivility is ruling the day in our society.  If someone does not like you’re driving, they may respond with an unkind gesture.  If someone does not like a retail service, they may scream at the poor cashier.  Even at the highest level of government, political figures sometimes blatantly lie, and pummel their opponents.  These days, if you don’t readily agree with someone’s way of thinking or ideology, they want to metaphorically “run you over with a bus.”  How very, very sad. The word civility means “formal politeness and courtesy in behavior and speech.”  So why is this not readily practiced in many corners?  Maybe people want to control.  Maybe people want to be right.  Maybe people aren’t tolerant of other opinions and views.  Maybe people get frustrated and instead of dealing with their emotions and anger in healthful ways, it comes out in an inappropriate manner.  Holy Scripture speaks on how we should treat and interact with one another.  God’s Word is calling us to love your neighbor as yourself.  Its compelling us to serve others, as Christ himself has provided us the example of service.  We’re warned not to be haughty, arrogant or prideful, but to have humility and be humble.  When it comes right down to it, every human being was made in the image of God.  Shouldn’t we treat each other accordingly? Isn’t it ok to be tolerant of others?  Isn’t it ok to agree to disagree on heartfelt issues?  Isn’t it ok to respect another, rather than instantly judging them on their appearance, clothing, way of living or agendas?  Isn’t it ok to work for peace, rather than jumping instantly to anger? Not long ago I was handed a pamphlet from the Rotary International Organization.  It was entitled, “The Four Way Test for Conflict Transformation.”  This process is based upon asking four questions- 24 words.  The questions included: “Is it True?”  “Is it fair to all concerned?”  “Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendships?”  “Will it be Beneficial to all concerned?”  Imagine, actively working to bridge gaps, heal wounds and deal with conflict in a constructive manner. Believe me, I’m not trying to live in denial by having a Pollyanna, Doris Day kind of attitude.  I realize that there are great differences of opinion on a multitude of political and social issues.  My thoughts have to do with being civil and respectful in our discourse and debates with one another.  When we allow ourselves to lose self-control in our interactions, it defeats the purpose. Growing up, my parents incessantly drilled into me that you treat others with kindness and respect.  They clearly taught that no one is better than another, so I better treat people well.  I hope that our present climate will one day change, where the first reaction of an individual is not to initially lambast another for being polarized, but to be open enough to freely discuss and share.  Instead of thinking that I will be civil once the other party begins to act accordingly, it can’t wait any longer.  It must start with us. Civility- Why not give it a try?