Welcome to the era of lost civility. The definition of civility is formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech. The error of our society in allowing this loss of civility is impacting our whole culture and way of life. The change in this starts with the parent and can move back to civility with a few steps in the right direction. And frankly, this is the season to turn over this new leaf.
Why is this so important? Children and adults all over the USA are demonstrating behaviors that at best are poor and at worst are shocking and heart breaking, most of which are the result of a lack of respect, which is the first victim of civil inability. So, how do we turn the tide and begin to breathe the air of civility back into our culture? It starts with good parenting and a firm hand as instructed through scripture. Our cultural foundation is now cracking due to a lack of small steps that technology has allowed and many of us have fostered.
Let’s start with a question. How many Christmas cards did you receive or send? Now, how many thank-you cards for your Christmas presents have you sent? I have polled about 15 families at this point and none of them testify to having sent either. Why is this? Culture and technology have allowed this lost step – it is time consuming and doesn’t seem to have immediate value. However, I disagree with this philosophy and the research actually backs me up with this.
“Civility does not mean the mere outward gentleness of speech cultivated for the occasion, but an inborn gentleness and desire to do the opponent good.” – Mahatma Gandhi
When I first searched for the term incivility, imagine my surprise that there is an actual group that studies this! A quick synopsis of their “Civility in America VII: The State of Civility” is below:
Although Americans recognize a shortage of civility in their daily lives, they easily agree on what it is and what it means to them.
To kick off our survey each year, we ask respondents to write in what civility means to them personally. Top responses focus primarily on being nice or polite to others (29%) and treating others with respect (17%). Examples of civility definitions provided by respondents include:
“Being civil — thoughtful, kind, sympathetic, able to get along with others, understanding in thought and word.”
“Respect and honor people as you would like to be treated.”
“Observing the rules of social etiquette, even when one disagrees.”
“Treating one another with mutual respect.”
“The act of being civil. Remaining polite, even if you don’t necessarily want to.”
“Tolerating people and things you don’t like for the sake of peace within a group.”
To ensure that all respondents completed the survey with a mutual understanding of civility, we presented this definition once they had written in their own: “By civility, we mean polite and respectful conduct and expression.” “Civility in America VII” shows that incivility continues to be pervasive in American life. However, Americans are willing to take some actions to prevent incivility from becoming further normalized. We suggest the following calls to action, based on our findings from this year’s study:
Let’s take the “civility challenge.” Three-quarters of us report that we would be willing to personally set a good civility example. We should take that challenge on. As Americans, we collectively recognize we have a civility problem, even a crisis, on our hands. Yet, while we agree on what civility means, we don’t see ourselves or even the people close to us as part of the problem. Each of us should take a closer look at our actions on a daily basis and evaluate if our own behavior may be having a deleterious impact on others.
Refrain from posting or sharing uncivil material online. While this is intuitive and perhaps simplistic, half of all incivility is encountered in search engines and on social media. What may seem civil to the poster/sharer, may be considered very uncivil to others. Through sharing and liking, our content often gets seen by people who aren’t our direct social media contacts. If we want to set an example of civility, we need to be thoughtful about the implications of not just our real-life actions but our online actions as well.
Leaders of workplaces can do more to root out incivility. Our research shows that working in uncivil environments has an adverse impact on the bottom line and the personal lives of employees. Most Americans report working in civilized environments. Organizations should evaluate their workplace civility levels, understand which factors drive incivility experiences or perceptions — such as anger, low morale and isolation — and correct the behavior.
Find common ground. The political polarization in America that has only become worse applies to civility as well. Whereas some people think that our public squares are better because citizens say whatever is on our minds, others believe our public squares have become breeding places for hate and lies. If Americans could become more accepting of arguments on both sides of the political spectrum and listen more to each other, common ground could be rediscovered and our civility crisis eased.
All of this is well and good but I suggest that we take it a step further. Children learn from their examples and if their examples are demonstrating to them that it is all about them then they will begin to believe that and act on that. I have often been asked by a parent or grandparent why their child has turned into an “ungrateful brat.” My answer is the same each time, “What are you doing to TRAIN your child/grandchild not to be self-centered?” We live in a world of iPhone and social media where the world is commenting on what you are doing and how well it is done which encourages an “all about me” approach.
Let’s try something new. What if we encouraged our children give up something daily for another person? A seat while waiting at a restaurant or an item that they no longer care about even though they just got it for Christmas. What if we made sure that our children were taught to send thank-you notes for Christmas even if they didn’t like the present? I was grateful to get a pair of underwear and an orange from my grandparents as that is all they could afford. Imagine my surprise every time my child sends a thank you note to someone that it gets commented on because it is so rare – this is a small step to changing our air of civility.
When I was watching SharkTank the other night – talk about uncivil – I saw a product go for millions that flabbergasted me! It was called HATER and it is an app to match couples by what they HATE instead of what they like. WOW! Just WOW! We have gotten to the point that hating is more important than liking or loving. Choices, folks! So here is my Civility Challenge to you, should you choose to accept it!
No negative postings on social media for one month at the minimum. I know this is hard when you just want to rant! Reposting as stated above counts as negative too!
No bad mouthing bad drivers. Instead of losing your mind and mouth at the crazy driver, try to think why they are driving like that. And this means you are not on your phone either!
Send thank-you notes with your child/grandchild helping you to each person who has done something special in your life. Send a little love to those who mean so much. Take the time and it will change your heart.
Go to a veteran’s home, nursing care facility or assisted living with your child/grandchild and teach them to share and love on those who have so little. Time means the world to these elderly citizens and listening to them tell stories is priceless. Take a little small note, picture or poem and watch their faces light up.
Volunteer at The Lighthouse or a local school through Step Forward to read or tell a story to the littles who are learning.
Take time each day to smile deliberately at everyone you meet even if they have done you wrong. Sometimes there is a story there they cannot or will not share.
When your child/grandchild is acting like a total fool, don’t rant, scream or curse, try restating the behavior that you want positively. MAN, THIS IS TRULY HARD!!!
Take a day and go serve the homeless by giving needed items or your time. Make sure your littles see this in action as it is a powerful reminder that we are all human. “Same Kind of Different As Me” is a great movie out now and it is available in a book for kids and adults.
Pay it forward! Buy a meal for the person behind you in line or a coworker or pick up the tab for another person you don’t know at a restaurant. You never know who you may bless in a needed time. L eave a thank you for your server. Teach your child to know the names of the people who serve them and TIP your server with the correct amount and be kind. Teach civility through your actions.
Finally, greet and meet at least 10 new people this month and get to know something about them by conversation in person. Not only is this good for your brain and memory but in this society, reaching out in peace and civility to others is what makes us human!
Thank you for taking the time to read and hear my heart! If you would like to respond to this with how this experiment changed you or made your relationships more civil, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. May God Bless America!