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A Call for Civility: Can't We All Just Get Along?



It appears we are currently experiencing an increased level of incivility in our society. From the political arena to anonymous comments on the internet, one is bombarded by more and more insulting, attacking, demeaning and rude language as well as its accompanying behavior.

Research has shown that mental and physical health, work production and relationships on all levels are negatively affected when there is increased incivility in the social environment. If unchecked, there arises a social contagion that results in uncivil conduct being repeated and spread to others. Moreover, when those held in high esteem act and speak in uncivil ways, their behavior is modeled and repeated by others.

There is a statement in Proverbs 18:21 that says, “life and death are found in the power of the tongue”. Our words have power. Even the seemingly idle words we speak or write for public consumption have consequences. What we express about and toward our fellow beings can tear down just as easily as it can build up. Negativity fragments our shared identity as spiritual beings and clouds the realization of our oneness.

Yet, on some level, there is a call from our true selves for a more civil society: a society in which one is able to respectfully disagree with others and still retain civility. As the late Rodney King pleaded, even after suffering extreme violence and prejudice without any hope for justice,“Can’t we all just get along?”

Though I've addressed this before, it is worth reiterating that there is always something we can do to turn the tide on the divisive words and actions from public figures to help bring forth a more civil society. Let us contemplate the following points in our intentions to do so:

Follow the advice of mystic Saint Francis Assisi: “grant that I may not so much seek… to be understood, as to understand.” When we put ourselves in another person’s shoes, we can find merit in their viewpoint even if we don’t agree. This allows us to see others less as opponents and more as a part of the spectrum of the human/spiritual family of which we are all part.

Challenge the ideas; do not attack the person. It’s ok to have different points of view on a matter. At the same time, we realize that the person is not their point of view; that person’s true identity is a child of God.

When dialoging with others, do so with the purpose of expanding your consciousness.

Never talk about how bad things are to anyone unless you are seeking to achieve a conscious agreement about the spiritual idea or opportunity behind the situation.

When more and more people speak and express words that reflect what Steven Pinker calls “the better angels of our nature,” the biggest impact will come from those who do not shout but listen and seek to understand. These voices will speak or write words with the intent to bring about the greater good. When that happens, we increase the understanding and good will of people everywhere.

Peace and Blessings,

James

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