Civility is graciousness, courteousness, good manners – respect– it’s what I long to see cultivated in other people’s gardens – and my own. But in my autumn’s garden, civility can be crowded out by weeds of fear, frustration, and self-righteousness
After watching a few morning news interviews today, I see I am not alone. Parsing and one-upmanship were in full flower as talking heads ripped into each other’s gardens according to their talking points.
I would love to hear all our leaders, pundits and pontificators admit we all have an oar in the muddle in which we find ourselves; that we all say we are sorry, please forgive us, and then get this great ship of state, that the United States is, turned around and on a better course!
But no, we have to prove how ridiculous the other fellow is. This isn’t new in politics but the elevator down seems to be sinking faster. Or it looks that way from this corner of my garden. (The 2016 Primaries)
Years ago Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense, identified a persistent blight and a potent remedy. The current meanness and paralysis may be tied to
1. feeling no need to treat others with respect, and
2. the diminishment of personal relationships. (DMN interview Robert Gates)
Such an analysis got me thinking about how my garden grows, especially the not treating people with respect bit. People, who believe they are right, rarely feel the need to build those relationships. I know because I have often known that conviction of “rightness.”
When I feel myself becoming provoked, frustrated, or hopeless about the people who are in elected office, or, vying for the office, I must remember they are the fruit of this culture, a culture as confused and angry, as it is innovative and productive. And it is a culture turning away from a conviction that a mind greater than our own has a “hand” in our affairs. Not that atheism is a new thing; it is now a more socially appealing and acceptable worldview, especially in light of today’s religious wars. (2 Timothy 4: 3-4)
I don’t need to throw in my trowel, though.
I just finished Bob Beckel’s newest book, I Should Be Dead. When I read Bob’s description of how a colleague, a “Christian,” never missed an opportunity to ask, listen and serve, I saw a useful gardening tool. for me, in my autumn’s garden.
Simply asking, “How are you,” listening for the answer – and then taking the time for a conversation, not a sermon, is a good way to offer cups of cold water to folks with whom it seems we have little in common.
“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening. Larry King
I’ve got two ears and one mouth for a reason, huh, Lord?( James 1:19-20)