Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Civility Week 31, July 30, 2012 - If You Can't Say Anything Nice, Try Harder!"

“It is not difficult today to find people who share a concern about the lack of civility in our society in general, and our public discourse in particular. What is difficult is to find people who believe they can do anything about the degree of civility in our political processes beyond remaining civil themselves.”
 Cassnadra Dahnke, Tomas Spath, Donna Bowling
Institute For Civility In Government

   I dread election years. In fact I hate election years because I feel like we should outlaw any forms of dirt slinging, mud racking or down right nasty talk about each other. So many of those people running for office must feel that it’s the only way to get elected, by bashing the other guy because 95% of the campaigns use these tactics.

   In the hunt for civility this year, I have found time after time that using civility has always improved  situations where there is the possibility for tempers to flare. So how do we improve the political arena when the mud slinging begins?

   First, don’t get involved in it yourself, don’t spread rumors, don’t speculate on whether what one opponent says about another is true or not. Stop beginning your conversations with other people, “Did you hear about so-and-so and his connections to the mob?”

   Try to find out positive things the candidates have done in their careers. Unless they are really wretched people, there had to be something positive they did to get into office, or think they should be running for office at least.  Even people who totally believe in opposite agendas than we do have a reason, some kind of reason. Maybe they haven’t heard enough positive reasons for the opposing side to understand your reasons for not supporting what they believe in.

   I realize this goes against the grain of some people’s way of thinking; it’s hard to fight “kindly” when someone is bashing your values or beliefs. But I have never read a bible verse that said Jesus lashed out at nonbelievers, sinners or His followers. He always, ALWAYS led by example, doing good, being civil, being kind, helping those who were ill or poor. He never, ever even told the Pharisees to go to hell because they didn’t support him.

   The opposite of this approach, of course, is to bury your head in the sand, to not say anything at all and let nature takes its course in the political arena. This is wrong too! Just because you believe in something different does not mean you shut up just so you don’t cause a fight.  Jesus also threw the money changers out of the temple, so we have a right to speak up for our values and beliefs. But truly, remembering things like, “They will know we are Christians by our love!”  and “You get more flies with honey than vinegar” can go a heck of a long way further in changing someone’s mind about abortion, marriage being between a man and woman, than burning effigies on their lawn, or treating then as outcasts.

   I realize too that, since Jesus was without sin, that gives Him a much bigger advantage over me being able to stay calm in these situations. But then, we don’t have to BE perfect as much as work TOWARD being perfect. It’s all in our approach.

   Many of us don’t feel comfortable speaking up,  maybe we didn’t take enough classes where we had to use decorum and civility or maybe we were always told “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  That should not be true, we still need to speak up, but say it nicely.  So the new adage should be, “If you can’t say anything nice, keep trying!”

   We simply cannot give up on civility, not while we live with other people, or have a society that is controlled by human beings. And if our society is not controlled by humans that would be a scary thought – we don’t want computers or governments controlling us. 

   So speak up, civilly! Speak  your mind, but do it in a nice way! Using your Jesus influence, do good works and show them the beauty of children, of true marriages, how a Jesus people live!

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