This morning I saw part of a segment on the Today Show about rudeness and the lack of civility in our society today. I wanted to watch the rest of it online this afternoon, but I wasn’t able to open the video. The question they asked was whether social media and reality TV are causing a lack of civility in our society.
My first thought was that reality TV is a symptom of a lack of civility among those who produce and star in such shows, but that it is not the cause. And that in social media some people do seem to be less than civil in their online postings, but again it is not the cause of that lack of civility.
The cause of people not being civil and polite to one another is clearly stated in scripture, and that is living according to our sinful nature. The apostle Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia and Ephesus:
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Galatians 5:19-21 (NLT).
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32.
Civility has declined in society as people have gone their own way, rejecting God or relegating religion to a Sunday-only pastime. But civility is not dead. I see it in many of the people I work with and definitely in those I worship with. There is a cure for a lack of civility, and that is Jesus. True saving faith in Christ and reliance on His Holy Spirit helps us to overcome our sinful nature. We cannot do it on our own.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23.
I know I cannot do this on my own because my sinful nature involves of a lot of bitterness, rage, and anger, to name just a few. But through the power of the Holy Spirit I see in myself love, patience, and kindness that didn’t exist before. I have a peace and joy that allow me to let go of hurts and try to put myself in the shoes of someone who I feel has wronged me. I don’t do this perfectly, but I’m getting there.
When I was looking for the video of the Today Show segment before writing this, I read some of the comments readers and viewers had posted. One woman complained that a co-worker had not helped her when she got stuck in her car when she was 9-months pregnant. She confronted him about it, and he said he hadn’t helped her because he thought she was a strong, independent woman and would be insulted by his offer of help. She cited this as an example of a lack of civility.
I’ll admit that his reasoning and actions were less than civil. But I was struck even more by her response. She said that she told him if he ever broke his leg she would be sure not to insult him by offering any help if it appeared he needed it. Rather than just correct his inaccurate perception of her willingness to accept help, she responds with hostility and a lack of civility of her own.
How different this woman’s experience could have been if she responded with love, peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness. If instead of treating this man as he had treated her, she treated him as she would want to be treated, how different the man’s experience could have been. Two lives could blessed. Instead, two lives remain broken and hurt.
It’s easy to look at others and complain about their lack of civility. But first we must look inward, to our own hearts, and ask God to help us be more civil to others. Imagine if every person relied on the amazing power of the Holy Spirit every minute of every day what a wonderful world we would live in. It would be better than just a civil society, it would be a loving society. That’s what Jesus would want us to do.