Civility in an Uncivil Time
I don’t know about you, but I have a growing concern about the lack of civility in our civilization. Have you ever read a Facebook or NextDoor group conversation that begins with a simple post, question or statement and quickly digresses into disagreement, degradation, and basic incivility? It also happens in emails, texts, on the news, and sometimes even at the local grocery store.
Rude behavior sometimes overwhelms the general kindness that can also be found everywhere. One comment, glare, or honk can undo the work of many kind smiles and friendly greetings. More recently, rude behavior seems to be tipping the scales over general kindness.
Frank Bruni, who is about as far left as one can be, writes in the New York Times that “we’re in a dangerous place when it comes to how we view, treat and talk about people we disagree with… What has happened to our discourse, and how do we make necessary progress—when hate is answered by hate, prejudice by prejudice, extremism begets extremism and ostensible liberalism practices illiberalism?”
Those are good questions. And the answer is that progress will never be made until we learn to speak with one another again, not just online or behind a device, but face to face as well. And followers of Jesus should lead the way.
In Breakpoint, a weekly update from the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, John Stonestreet says, “[We need] to see those around us as fellow creations of God in need of reconciliation and restoration, not as enemy combatants… We must never stop proclaiming the truth and getting better ourselves at making the case for that which is true, good and beautiful. And we ourselves have to demonstrate civility, the willingness to talk instead of fight, even if our ideological opponents disagree.” A good reminder for us every day.
The Bible also gives us some pretty sound advice: “Let us hold fast our confession” (Hebrews 4:14). “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).
Jesus laid the groundwork for all who follow when he said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).
And sometimes, the best course of action is this: “Therefore let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2), which includes, by the way, Facebook, Twitter, NextDoor, emails, texts, and most definitely when you encounter unkind behavior in person.
And now I’m going to lead by example… and stop typing. Silence is golden. Shhh.