Jay Rifenbary

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'Tis the Season for Civility and Kindness?

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As a society, have we lost our minds in what it means to be civil and kind to one another? Are trampling over others for a two-dollar toaster, or pepper spraying someone to get to the best bargain really behaviors to embrace? If the answer is yes, say good-bye to any moral foundation of decency and purposeful evolution for humanity. As the holiday season began, I could not help but be saddened by what many would perceive as possessions at the core of our nation’s values. It is this national obsession with stuff that has created monetary debt and moral bankruptcy for many. Although it may be a minority of our citizenry who demonstrate such a lack of civility, it is a trend that should not go unaddressed.

To neglect our responsibilities to one another as a people rather than a commodity is a path toward social disaster. Charles Dickens stated, “The civility which money will purchase, is rarely extended to those who have none.” It is this time of year that we are reminded that how we treat one another should take priority over the things we acquire or own. Why only this time of year? It should be every day, of every month, of every year, that we monitor our behaviors and the example we set to those around us. It is evident that taking the time to positively focus on and listen effectively to another has deteriorated. Trends toward personal gratification, self-centeredness, impersonal communication, social indecency and a lack of self-respect are all major contributing factors.

There is also abundant goodness and love demonstrated every day by many, and it is the foundation for experiencing and living a meaningful and purposeful life. To serve others selflessly with kindness and civility for the betterment of all mankind defines much of what this season should represent. Civility is defined as, “formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech.” It is not only the behaviors we demonstrate, but also how we communicate that defines how civil we are towards one another. The callousness of using profanity or the degrading words used to attack others only exasperates a lack of civility. Kindness is defined as, “the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate.” Civility is much more than just being kind, it is the ability to be thoughtful, compassionate, polite, respectful, and build relationships that foster goodness in thought and behavior toward one another. As George Washington said, “Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.”

The more you reflect on and implement the core values you believe in, the greater ability to be civil to those around you. The more secure you are in who you are also promotes civility. As a result, you are less vulnerable to the necessity to behave in an uncivil manner. Civility and morality are congruent with one another. The less an understanding of what it means to be moral the less able to be civil. As a result, we become a society of freewheeling and irresponsible behaviors with no consequences. Ralph Waldo Emerson stated simply, “There can be no high civility without a deep morality.”

Five steps to create a more civil environment for you both personally and professionally are as follows. * Treat others as you want to be treated, The Golden Rule. * Be objective in your thought process and focus on the information rather than the emotion. Professionalism (emotional patience) is key in the act of being civil. * Focus on listening and analyzing rather then reacting and speaking. * Be keenly aware of not only what you say, but how you say it. * Recognize you influence those around you and with that influence comes a responsibility to set an example of civility.

Civility breeds trust, unity and a sense of value to those we manage, lead, and most importantly parent. The more civil our children become the more joyous their life will be. As we celebrate the coming birth of the “Prince of Peace”, let us all understand that peace is the result of civility, kindness and the love we demonstrate with one another. As Jesus shared, “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” A Blessed and Merry Christmas to all my fellow learners of life. 



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