By Niki Turner
When I was a child and got emotional or argumentative with my mother, she used to tell me, “Go to your room and don’t come out until you can be civil.”
I complied for years before I finally understood the definition of “civil.” It’s a concept I think we all need to review in our daily interactions, and model for our own children and grandchildren. (By the way, when you correct your toddlers and young children, use words they know the definitions to.)
In its simplest definition, to be civil means to be “adequate in courtesy and politeness.” In other words, it means to have reasonably decent manners and treat other people the way we would like to be treated. From a Bible definition, it's the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." -Remember those things we were admonished not to do in grade school? Don’t call people names, even in jest. Don’t tell lies. Don’t cheat. Don’t spread rumors. Respect your elders. Say “please” and “thank you.” You know, the really basic stuff?
"Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs." -
It’s easy to be rude. It’s easy to be negative and cranky and judgmental and unforgiving. And it's happening everywhere, as if someone took a lid off our self-control (a fruit of the Holy Spirit) and folks now have no boundaries. Don't believe me? Go check out some product reviews on Amazon, or the comments on a controversial post on social media. Even our elected and appointed officials are doing it, and their uncivil words and behavior seem to be trickling down to the general public.
"But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." -
Well, it's a free country, and we have the right to speak our mind and say whatever we want about anyone. Sure, but all that rudeness and negativity is detrimental to our personal and societal health. The analogy has been made: words, like arrows, are easy to release from the bow of our mouth. They aren't so easy to remove from the hearts of our targets. And wounded people tend to become wounded people.
"But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked." -
The word civil is also where we get the words civilized and civilization. When we begin to rationalize exchanging common courtesy and politeness for bad behavior to boost our egos, promote our opinions, or for some other selfish agenda, civilization begins to unravel at the edges.