I recently read an article on civility in the office. More accurately, the writer was lamenting the lack of civility in the office while issuing a call to bring civility back. As I read it was as if a feeling deep within me had found its voice. As I read I remembered the ideals from my grandfather’s era and wondered when and where politeness, courtesy, and respect decided to leave. I look back over the years and see possible indicators, but no clear telltales of a departure. Along the way, I look back with longing for the days when individuals started with politeness and respect.
I am not so naïve as to think the golden years of times past were golden. Bias and bigotry have existed in many different forms across the generations. Discrimination was alive then, just as it lives now. A lament on how one minority culture treated another was chilling. We may be more aware, but there is a long way to go in our quest to have a fair, open, and transparent opportunities for everyone.
My contribution to the subject comes in three reminders to myself.
One must want to civility for in and for itself. Life is unfair. Life is unjust. Others do not live up to their commitments or to their aspirations. While the last three points are all true, civility is a choice I get to make about how I am going to act and react.
For civility to work, I find it needs to be one-sided. No barter for something of equal value. To be blunt; civility is not an exchange, my respect for your respect, my helpfulness only if you are helpful. If civility is part of compassionate, inclusive, and empathetic living, I will embrace and exercise civility because I believe in this kind of living.
Civility does not always come natural. It is a choice. To help me learn, my request of Divinity is this; “You are good, and the source of good; train me in your goodness.” (Psalm 119.68)
Civility and living, hand in hand.