Why Being Civil Matters
If we want any chance of success and survival, we must bring back civility.
I once read an interesting quote that went something like this, “the first generation creates the wealth, the second generation enjoys it, and the third generations destroys it.” Sadly, that resonated me with. I think of family businesses where the creator poured in their blood, sweat, and tears, and built a successful business, only to have it continue on by the next generation, likely with some continued success, only to then pass it down once again, likely to failure. It would seem this would happen because the third generation is too far removed from the hard work, commitment, and passion of the first. When you work hard, commit, take significant risks, and then see the fruits of your labor, you want that “thing” to succeed more than anything else. It won’t fail, at least not on your watch.
I wonder if this quote also applies to culture, society, and civility. We all hear stories about how the politicians of prior generations could duke it out on the Senate floor and then go have lunch together. They may have disagreed on principle, but they also respected one another and were civil enough to put aside differences to honor the humanity of their opponent. How we long for those days. Is our culture heading into third generation territory? Where has civility gone?
Even in local neighborhoods I’ve seen this. Prior generations with a handshake agreement amongst neighbors would suffice to live well next to one another, overlooking small offenses in order to maintain peace. The next generation takes over and suddenly you’re dealing with legal issues, disputes, and frustrations over who is right and who is wrong. Only the attorneys win, and now you live next to someone you have to avoid. Who wants that?
Instead of analyzing the problem and thinking of ways to solve these problems, it seems our collective response has been to assign blame. As long as we can blame someone we can feel vindicated.
As I ponder these things, I ask you, how can we, as individuals, and in our communities, restore civility? Can we be kind? Can we respect boundaries? Are we willing to overlook small offenses to keep the peace? Or will we remain stubborn and just look to blame. If we want any chance of success and survival, we must bring back civility.
“Aspire to decency. Practice civility toward one another. Admire and emulate ethical behavior wherever you find it. Apply a rigid standard of morality to your lives; and if, periodically, you fail as you surely will adjust your lives, not the standards.” ― Ted Koppel