Practice Civility for Health

Many of us are on edge, knowing that our actions today will determine how viable Earth will be for generations to come.

Horrific events joggle us awake as we try to make sense of how they could possibly happen. Initially the finger of blame points to one possible cause: an inanimate gun. Yet a closer look finds many causes leading up to the choice to retaliate with guns. We learn that it is not just lax gun laws but perhaps lack of follow up for child abuse or domestic violence problems, school bullying, mental health problems, and general lack of good will that will not be resolved even when safer gun laws are put in place. Gun laws are just step one.

We are horrified when 17 lives are snuffed out at random, yet when children are singly mistreated, neglected, or ignored one at a time for years, where is our concern? Nikolas Cruz gave out plentiful danger signals that appear to have been largely ignored.

We do have a big job to do. Our country was founded on the genocide of one people and the enslavement of another. We still have to figure out what it means to be civil people, and commit ourselves to making civility happen.

Civility means respecting people who are different than you or I. Evidence of civility includes attributes of cooperation, tolerance, acceptance, inclusiveness, kindness, inviting and sharing different opinions, courtesy, patience, and ….  We do know what makes us feel good and connected.

George Washington had 110 Rules for Civil Behavior. Henry James shortened his list to the three things in human life that are important: 1. Be kind. 2 Be kind and 3 Be kind. PM Forni has 25 rules in his book, The Civility Solution: What to do when people are rude. The lists are all on the internet if you like lists. Kurt Vonnegut, who survived the WWII US bombing of Dresden as a POW, spent the rest of his life working the James’ plea, “You’ve Got to be Kind!” into his writing.

Inclusivity is one of our greatest challenges: to find ways to help others to fit in, to belong. Most of us have felt left out at some point in life and we know what kind of resentment and insecure feelings come  with feeling left out. Most of us have also left people out at other times, unaware of our need to retaliate.

As our world becomes one community, tightly connected by transport and communication, we each need to take a sober look at how we give respect to others who are different than we are and be open to changing our own behavior as participants in the global community.


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