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We Need A R-evol-ution

Civility...definition, "courtesy, politeness" -
an endangered species

The past few days have given us the opportunity to witness the decline in civility in the public eye. First, Representative Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) arrogantly shouted out during President Obama's address to the joint session of Congress, "You Lie" - you may view the video here.

Last night, although I wasn't watching the VMA's on MTV, I saw the chatter across the internet regarding what Kanye West did while Taylor Swift was making her acceptance remarks for Best Female Video of the year - you may see Kanye's actions here.

The definition above, extracted from a few "dictionary" websites across the Internet, is weak and lacks the necessary punch needed to counter the lack of civility present in our society. This is nothing new, lest you think this is a "race thing" it's been going on for a while. In the country music scene, you have Toby Keith that has been an outspoken critic of the Country Music Association (CMA) awards - article here.

So, what's the problem with the above definition?

It is weak. Politeness, can be extended, all while hijacking a conversation or situation, and stabbing someone else in the back. For example, "Excuse me (that would be polite), I'm happy that you won that award or were recognized for that achievement (more politeness), but the real recognition goes to so-and-so."

What just happened?
  • Politeness was extended (sometimes more than once)
  • The situation was turned from the original intent to your intent
  • You made the situation about you, even though you tried to make it about someone else
  • That is called selfishness
And it's rampant in the world around us...

For example, our 1st Amendment rights to free speech have been hijacked in the name of selfishness - I have no doubt as to your rights, but there's something to be said for timing, tone and context.

Rep. Wilson's timing couldn't have been worse - it's terribly rude, inconsiderate and selfish to interrupt the President (or ANY public speaker). The tone was hateful and dehumanizing - something that ought never happen. The context was the worst possible scenario - the beauty of our society is that after the fact, we can express our opinion, we just need to do it in the right context - for Rep. Wilson that context would have been after President Obama's speech.

Kanye's timing couldn't be worse - he made his remarks, intended to be about Beyonce, about himself. His tone was crass and careless (also demonstrated by his action of taking the stage...something that never should happen...notice the word usage - "taking the stage" - the stage is a privilege not a right, one is given the stage, the stage ought never be "taken"). And the context was awful - Kanye has a blog and an appearance on tonight's Jay Leno show - that should have been the context of his opinion.

We need a Revolution

George Washington had his list of 110 Rules of Civility - list found here. While they may seem old-fashioned and outdated, one of the common denominators is this: Consider Others First.

Romans 12:10 puts it this way, "Honor one another above yourselves."

In the book titled, "The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct" - author P.M. Forni offers advice for us all. At a glance, here are his 25 rules are (note: I've bolded the ones that are appropriate to these two situations in mind):

1. Pay attention
2. Acknowledge others
3. Think the best

4. Listen

5. Be inclusive
6. Speak kindly

7. Don’t speak ill
8. Accept and give praise

9. Respect even a subtle “no”
10. Respect others’ opinions
11. Mind your body
12. Be agreeable
13. Keep it down (and rediscover silence)
14. Respect other people’s time

15. Respect other people’s space

16. Apologize earnestly and thoughtfully (note: both have done this)
17. Assert yourself
18. Avoid personal questions
19. Care for your guests
20. Be a considerate guest

21. Think twice before asking for favors
22. Refrain from idle complaints

23. Give constructive criticism

24. Respect the environment and be gentle to animals
25. Don’t shift responsibility and blame


I recently preached a sermon and blogged saying in effect, "We need an Honor Revolution." Today, I say we also need a Civility Revolution. We need a Revolution!

We need a Revolution of Civility - one that affirms the worth of people rather than exerting some sort of self-imposed superiority. We need a Revolution of Civility - one that listens first with the intent of hearing the heart of the other person rather than waiting impatiently or interrupting someone to spout out our self-declared importance of opinion. We need a Revolution of Civility - one that respects people rather than gazing down the nose of our self-exalted position.

We also need a Love Revolution (By the way, if you look at the word Revolution, you see the word "love" spelled backwards. I've bolded it in the paragraph above...that's because love goes against the flow, is hidden in the many facets and dynamics of day-to-day life and and can be found even in a revolution). Join me in coming days as I blog about Revolution - a Love Revolution.

(By the way, pastors and church leaders, are you prepared for this type of interruption in your service...I sense that if we don't see a Revolution in Civility, we will see this type of debate taking place soon. While I'm all for dialogue, one of the reasons I embrace twitter, facebook and commmenting on the blog, timing, tone and context are also important).

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