Friday, September 4, 2009

Where Has Civility Gone?

For some reason today I feel assaulted by the culture. A young friend relates how he felt attending some neighborhood meetings in which people three times his age expressed dissent in disrespectful, childish manner, cutting off others and booing speakers.

I visit another friend's blog only to read a sadly true story about a woman who couldn't get off her cell phone long enough to complete a transaction at a grocery store and then was grossly rude to the cashier and those waiting.

I hear a story on the news about the debate over health care and listen to the media defending their propensity to cover only the contentious moments, not the calm and civil ones. The journalist actually said, "we show the houses burning, not the ones not on fire."

I watch at the gym as people 'stake out' a machine with their weights and towel and come and go from it over a 20 minute period, not allowing anyone else to use it.

I drive home from the gym and marvel at three different people cutting others off in traffic that covers less than 3 miles.

I listen to the ad for a well-known talk show host on NPR that talk about how well-versed she is in many areas of politics and government, yet I can't stand to listen to her anymore because she constantly interrupts her guests.

What has happened to our society? Do we require rudeness in order to be motivated to do the right thing? Has our respect for order and debate been trumped by our individual needs to be heard? I'm convinced that part of our problem stems from letting television dictate our social interactions. In the land of the sit-com, zingers, sarcasm and personal insults are momentary and laughable. But taken into our living rooms and our lives, the reality of hurtful words is damaging. So why do we find them funny on television? Why do we celebrate movies in which young children make adults look like buffoons? Why do we allow children to run around in restaurants, play with toys in church, and sass their teachers and parents?

We do not have to agree on everything. It would be a very boring world if we did! But we do need to step back, breathe deeply, and (I hear my mother's voice coming out of my mouth here) THINK BEFORE WE SPEAK! And we need to teach our children the same thing. We need to teach other people's children the same thing -- by not encouraging their bratty behavior.

That old Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," has a lot of merit in it. But it's easier than that. Just be kind. That's it. Be kind. Even if someone is mean. (And believe me I do NOT like mean people). But to be mean back is to perpetuate being mean.

There's a wonderful passage in the New Testament that the Apostle Paul gave us. It is his "filter" that we should use as we evaluate whatever we take in from the culture. We are part of the culture as well, so we need to use this filter for everything we send out into is as well. It's from Philippians 4:8:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.

Yeah, and to quote Thumper, "If ya can't say anything nice, don't say nuthin' at all."

It's taken me over 40 years to start understanding and practicing this myself. What a relief though when I remember to do it.


1 comment:

Quilldancer said...

Competition and overcrowding. "I gotta get mine while I can because there's not enough to go around." Selfishness is the theme of the times.

I am feeling like you are. Too many people do not seem to have any clue that they should extend the same courtesy and compassion they demand. I try to respond to discourtesy and rudeness in the way I would like to be treated, but I don't always manage it.