We were doing a little early spring cleaning of our bookshelves the other day. Between some pages of a book was a clipping that we had saved. The subject of the article just happened to be something that we would like to share.
We wonder what is happening to our society. We face violence in our schools and road rage on our highways. Our telephones become a means of disturbing our dinner hours with computerized calls. Doors are slammed, friendly greetings are ignored and insulting gestures are made.
Where have civility, kindness and respect gone?
This was discussed in the little clipping we had found out of a September 2003 "Maryland Bar Journal." Janet Stidman Eveleth stated it very well when she wrote, "At one time, Americans were generally a polite and respectful people living in a civil and communal culture. However, civility in society has deteriorated over the years. Incivility, disrespect and rudeness are pervasive in today's American culture. Civility and good manners seem to have been replaced by aggressive, discourteous and downright rude behavior."
Incivility has a negative effect on the quality of our everyday lives as Americans. There is a connection to violence. Students who did school shootings, felt alienated and disrespected, and put down by their piers.
Professor Fornix of Johns Hopkins University wrote, "A civil person shows considerate respect, good manners and concern for other people. It is someone who is willing to give of himself for the sake of community. Civility is the ability to be apart of a community and to interact with others."
A civil person adheres to three distinct, yet intergraded, ethical cornerstones of civility, he says. First, we must show respect for others. We should treat them as ends unto themselves, and not as means of satisfying our personal, immediate needs and desires. We must be aware of others, and accommodate our needs to their needs. This is practicing an ethical lifestyle.
The second cornerstone is the connection between incivility and acts of violence. Acts of rudeness hurt in and of themselves. They can escalate into physical violence. When we keep civility under control, we keep violence under control.
The third cornerstone fosters our overall well-being. To have a long, healthy and serene life, we need to be part of a network of people. We need social support. We need social skills. Good manners and the rules of civility are the most elementary, time proven code of relationship cornerstone.
Being agreeable to others, aware of their needs, being kind, understanding, being a good listener, and being welling to understand the point of view of others, we will foster relationships and keep others around us.
When we are kind to someone, we are also kind to ourselves. By being civil, we benefit ourselves by creating social support. Civility fosters respect and ethical treatment of others, helps control violence in society and enhances our well-being.
What has happened? There are shifts in society. Young people show respect in different ways. They may not give up their seat to the elderly, but they may show concern for animals and weaker elements.
Another contemporary trend is the focus on individualism. We want to be achievers. That is incongruous with civility. Our lives are stressed. We don't have time to be aware of needs of others.
Road rage is a volatile act of stress and anonymity.
To restore civility in society, we must look to the next generations. Children should be taught that others are important and should be taken into consideration.
The benefits of civility are endless. Civility is a quality of the strong. The strong person takes the time to be kind. People who are strong, considerate and kind are smart; they are the ones who win and get ahead.
Politeness and respect must win out in our society so that we as Americans will return to life in a culture with civility.