This is an open letter to myself.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better. You know it will.

Everyone wants to see things get better but we disagree on how that will happen. It’s hard to disagree so ardently about such ethical and moral issues and not have them get personal. It’s hard to disagree so vehemently about right and wrong, good and bad, and not start to lose respect for the people with whom you’re disagreeing.

And it will get worse before it gets better.

Civility won’t solve the problem. Offering civility to those who will respond with incivility will feel weak and vulnerable. When people with whom you agree start behaving ungraciously toward those who support what you consider a threat to our democracy, will you join in? For that matter, will you lead others to behave ungraciously and call it justified?

Over and over, I see these memes reminding us that “You can disagree and still respect each other.” Yes, you can…but will you?

Civility won’t solve our problems but you know for absolute certain that incivility will make them worse. That’s half the issue. The bigger half (math genius that you are) is that you don’t choose kindness because it works, you choose kindness because it’s right. You don’t offer grace because people deserve it (“deserved grace” being an oxymoron), you offer grace because God offers you grace, relentlessly, ceaselessly. You treat people with civility because remaining faithful to Jesus through this is still the bottom line. You can humiliate others and destroy their arguments…and lose your soul. NOT worth it.

You believe that love needs to triumph over fear. You believe that compassion and empathy have gone missing for many people and you have to keep calling them back to these. You believe that Jesus always sides with the oppressed and the persecuted, and you have to find ways to speak against the abuses your country is perpetrating and your fellow citizens are condoning. You cannot, you cannot do these things in hate. If the people you confront don’t understand, you love them; if they treat you as their enemy, you love them.

You’re going to speak up. That has become both obvious and necessary. Too much is at stake and too many people have told you that your voice helps them for you to turn back or hunker down and cower now. Once, what seems not long ago, people’s disapproval shut you up. Now, you still hate it just as much, but it doesn’t control you. “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.”

Civility won’t solve the problem but civility will be the right way to engage. You must keep practicing civility even if you don’t see people changing or reciprocating. Civility will matter because Jesus works in miraculous and unseen ways. Waging wars with kindness can bring redemption where waging wars with spite cannot. This is going to get worse and yet I believe God will work through our small efforts to do to others as we would have them do to us.

Keep it civil, Mike.

5 thoughts on “Civility

  1. Sherry Dearborn

    Bravo, Mike! Well said, and I agree that we must stay the more difficult path. So hard to not let civility be a downer. With your permission, I may share this with my minister.

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