Let’s say your task is to try to convey to someone the essence of all that it means to practice civility. If it helps get you into the frame of mind, by all means, imagine a specific scenario you could find yourself in.
It could be that you’re a parent and you’re teaching your child something of manners. Perhaps the “someone” is yourself and you’re trying to become far more deliberate in your habits of behavior toward others, perhaps even toward your aging parents. Or maybe you have a friend who has come to you for your counsel on how they can get along better with others with whom they have a difficult relationship at home or at work.
Now this is vital. You want to word your advice concisely and clearly so the person can grasp it and perhaps even remember it for a very long time to come. What all would you say, and how would you say it all in, let’s say, fifty words or less?
In a fine work entitled The Civility Solution, the author, P.M. Forni does something just like that as he offers us all “eight rules for a civil life” toward “preventing rudeness” (pp. 28-44) I reproduce them below for your careful reflection. I’ve taken the liberty of adding to them eight passages written by the apostle Paul, a man who, like the rest of us, had to learn what it meant to be civil. Each of these texts came to my mind as I read each of Forni’s rules.
May God lead me, and all of us, more and more toward a civil life, I pray.
1. Slow down and be present in your life.
“… be careful to live your life wisely, not foolishly. Take advantage of every opportunity …” (Ephesians 5.15-16a)
2. Listen to the voice of empathy.
“… as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3.12)
3. Keep a positive attitude.
“… brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4.8)
4. Respect others and grant them plenty of validation.
“Brothers and sisters, we ask you to respect those who are working with you …” (1 Thessalonians 5.12)
5. Disagree graciously and refrain from arguing.
“Avoid foolish and thoughtless discussions, since you know that they produce conflicts. God’s slave shouldn’t be argumentative but should be kind toward all people, able to teach, patient …” (2 Timothy 2.23-25a)
6. Get to know the people around you.
“We were glad to share not only God’s good news with you but also our very lives because we cared for you so much.” (1 Thessalonians 2.8)
7. Pay attention to the small things.
“Say hello to each other with a holy kiss.” (Romans 16.16)
8. Ask, don’t tell.
“… brothers and sisters, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus to … do better in how you live and please God …” (1 Thessalonians 4.1)