Civility

1- We will greet and acknowledge each other

2- We will say please and thank you

3- We will treat each other equally and with respect

4- We will be direct, sensitive and honest

5- We will address incivility whenever it occurs


Where would you expect to hear this list? This is what Bill Hybels calls his “Civility Code,” shared at the Global Leadership Summit 2017. While these were expectations years ago and were actions shared at home, work and in other social situations, one could argue that a lot of remedial teaching (and coaching) needs to be done to get these practices back into the functioning of our society.

Post modern times dictate a need to define words and a functioning agreement on words and phrases. All too often, assumptions are made that certain words and phrases being used in conversations are using the same working definition by all parties involved.

Even this notion of a “Civility Code” has other definitions. In California, a civility tool box is shared as part of the State Bar Association. It contains language and actions that are permissible and not permissible. Civility Code becomes more than manners- it’s the language of the Bar.

In a sample veterinarians’ resource site, the question is posed, “Is your veterinary hospital certified civil?” One can conclude quickly that most of the code is nothing more than bygone manners.

In other cases, codes are interpreted as divisive and inflammatory. In the fall of 2017, the Chancellor for Cal-Berkeley “was forced to backtrack and clarify his statement (on civility) after scholars and commentators raised concerns that civility would be used as an excuse to repress legitimate political debate.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-center-for-constitutional-rights/when-civility-is-code-for_b_6366362.html)

In our world, every word needs defining, every action needs accountability, every thought is judged as being biased.

Is there a “Professionally Speaking” application for civility? Consider these thoughts on civility within the activity of a school-

  • Treatment of co-workers. As all within schools, pastors, administrators, teachers, office staff, kitchen staff, maintenance staff, pastors  and aides perform their responsibilities to the glory of God, respect, truth and love can be expected attitudes that will permeate words and actions. Be it in the hallway, small groups, faculty meetings or in social gatherings, colleagues and co-workers can expect greetings, words of encouragement and honesty. “Truth had to be told?” Maybe- but where and when? “I’m just being honest?” Is “being honest” out of love or to expose? Silent treatment toward others? Read the Good Samaritan lately? Shunning is not a Christian action.  
  • Treatment of guests and implications of admissions. Stores like Walmart have greeters at their entrance for the main purpose of welcoming customers. The best greeters are attentive to every arriving customer, not glued to a cell phone or engaged in conversation with a fellow employee. Customers first, that’s the motto. Is an attentive greeter with a warm welcome the first impression of your school? Does the school’s administrative assistant understand this importance of first impressions? How does the facility itself lend itself to the community’s ability to be welcoming?
  • Treatment within the classroom. Taking turns. Raising hands. No secrets. What else comes to mind as one thinks about classroom rules? Often classroom rules are about order but would the bigger priority be about learning to get along?

Civility finds its roots in the second table of the 10 Commandments. The Fourth Commandment is about respect for authority. The Fifth Commandment is about physically caring for one another. The Sixth Commandment is about respect for God’s design for family and relationships with one another. The Eighth Commandment is about our words toward one another.

The reality is care for our neighbor is not an easy thing for us to do. It’s not natural for us to look beyond ourselves, beyond our own needs and treat others with love and concern.

However, our God has shown to us what it looks like to be self-less, to be humble, to care for those around us. In Jesus, we see selflessness for the good of mankind, even to the extent of death. In Jesus, we see humility as the Creator lives within a fallen creation and lives for others, not for himself. In Jesus, we see compassion for others, even for those who are difficult to care for.

Thanks be to God that we are in Christ through faith. His life is the life we are connected to in the waters of baptism. Our sinful, selfish ways are daily drowned and to the glory of God and by his grace, we perform the works he has set in front of us, works that are witness to Christ.

As we see over and over again, it’s still all about Jesus….including how we treat one another.