“Whatever happened to civility?” is an oft-heard lament, particularly among those of us over 50 who recognize civility’s increasing absence in a world changing at warp speed. Technology has forever altered the style, speed and reach of our decidedly less personal communication. Escalating vulgarity, lax standards, sensational media and polarized politics reign. Society today is far different from what it was when we were young.
See also: Planting the seeds of good manners.
While rudeness is pervasive and rising (one recent report concluded that bad behavior may be the “new normal”), the societal and financial costs of incivility are astronomical — impacting our homes and relationships, schools, economy, health care and government.
Civility is more than polite courtesies. Derived from the Old French and Latin term for “good citizen,” civility enables us to live respectfully in communities; it is the glue that binds our society. It can be the difference between life and death — as, for example, when health care professionals bully subordinates, cover mistakes and create mistrust. It is an essential component of our human sustainability, enabling us not only to survive but thrive.
Reversing the current course of incivility is a challenge for our times. Until a rudeness vaccine is developed, we must dig into our civility tool kit.
There are compelling reasons why we should. A life is not defined by a single act, and few of us will ever achieve national acclaim or perform deeds that change the course of history. However, there is “greatness” in treating others with respect, compassion, kindness and generosity. With this we can make a difference in the lives of many.