From the Editor: Civility

by Beth A Richardson on December 31, 2012 · 2 comments

Civility cover

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I’m worn down, these days, by debates and arguments, hatred and fear mongering. I’m weary of culture wars, polarization, and “code words” that signal whether a person or group is liberal or conservative. I’m tired of negativity and criticism, tired of the magnifying glass of scrutiny pointed at every word, gesture, action of people and institutions — from politicians and celebrities to church leaders and even people like me.

This cultural environment of negativity and mistrust seeps into my spirit. These days when I stop and look
inside my heart, I find that it’s filled with toxic wastes of fear, cynicism, and judgment.

Rodney King, beaten by police in a traffic stop in 1991, asked during the 1992 Los Angeles race riots, “Can we all get along?” My heart is asking that, too. Can we all just get along and let go of accusations, labeling, fear, and hatred?

Jesus didn’t say, “Be civil” or “Be nice.” Jesus went so much farther than niceties when he said, “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other” (John 13:34-35). “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also” (Matthew 5:39). “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

That’s a tough order these days. It is so easy, now, to slip into thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that encourage mistrust and judgment rather than promote love and compassion. When I communicate more often through digital means than face to face, it becomes even easier for me to slip into places of labeling and criticizing others.

I want to become more aware of my own interactions — both digital and face-to-face. I want to watch out for the ways that I contribute to a culture of incivility and polarization by the things that I say, the stories or images I share in social media, the anger, hatred, or cynicism that I harbor or nurture in my heart. I want to challenge myself to take the time and energy to look more deeply into an issue — or the eyes of another person — before I jump into judgment.


P.S. Lent begins on February 13 with Ash Wednesday. We will continue our Lenten journey in March/April as we reflect together on “Forgiveness.”

Source: Reprinted from Alive Now, January/February 2013, copyright &copy 2012 The Upper Room.

Sandra Sharp January 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Beth, Your feelings are beautifully stated here – I know exactly what you mean, and I don’t want my grandsons to be accustomed to people mistreating each other. It (incivility) seems to have become closer and closer to the norm, and I find that dangerous. Normalization of hatred? Never.

Dee Anne Bostic January 2, 2013 at 2:14 pm

I think most of us are so ready for a dose of positivity in our lives. We are inundated with negativity on a daily basis, whether watching the “news” on TV or driving in a car. I have recently become aware of people honking their car horns. Instead of waiting a moment for the car to move in front of us, we hit the horn! At stop lights, stop signs, mall parking lots, everywhere! Perhaps I have become aware of this particular act of impatience having been on a pilgrimage recently, walking in the quiet of God’s nature for hours at a time. Maybe it’s also because now I am not in as big a hurry anymore. I like being in the moment. I like taking in the beauty and positive things around me. I like the opportunity to acknowledge people I meet on the street by saying “Good morning” or “Hello!”. I like being a loving person, and seek to find that in others. I feel more connected with my life and less like I’m running past it! So, I’m not so interested in getting where I’m going at the expense of missing where I am. If we stop and listen to one another, maybe there will be less misunderstanding, less chaos, less need to defend our positions. Perhaps there will be more time spent being good to ourselves as well as others. I’m certainly not free from being negative sometimes, but I am working on it! One day at a time…

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