Civil Discourse Facilitates Loving Encounters

Civil Discourse

Civil discourse seems a lost art these days. And that’s truly sad. We humans have a remarkable ability to communicate. Sadly, we don’t always use the talent wisely.

Our society faces many challenges. So, our need for a robust conversation couldn’t be greater. Besides, we have much to learn from one another. So it’s a shame we so often come to our encounters with minds already made up. And so much of what comes out of our mouths sometimes only alienates as opposed to binds. No wonder we seem so divided these days.

The 9th “Commandment” of Character

I’ve really been working on a re-frame of the 9th Commandment of character. (I first introduced this commandment in Character Disturbance, p. 144) (See also: Civility and Generosity Go Together.)  Re-framing this axiom just right is very important to me. That’s because the spiritual dimensions of it bear so heavily on solid character formation.

Here’s the original wording of commandment number 9:

Treat those you encounter with civility and generosity.

Loving Encounters

Every human encounter carries a unique opportunity. It can be an opportunity for loving, healing, constructive connection. Or, it can be an opportunity for destructive divisiveness. Now, creating loving encounters isn’t just good for others. It’s actually what we ourselves need for true inner peace and happiness.

Because we’re all broken people, our encounters are naturally full of strife. So, it’s up to us to be civil, even when we’re sorely tempted not to be. And we have to find it in our hearts to be generous. That means giving even when we think we have little left to give. And it means opening ourselves up, even in the face of possible rejection.

Ultimately, we have to bring to our encounters the peace we want others to afford us. We have to be the change we want to see in others and in the world. But first, we have to learn how to talk to one another. That’s where civil discourse comes in. Until we can share openly and lovingly, we can’t really connect. We certainly don’t have to agree on everything. Nor do we have to abandon our principles just to get along. And we certainly don’t have to subject ourselves to harm. But we do have to be mindful of how we engage. We have to do our part. And when we engage in a civil manner and with a generous heart, something positive inevitably grows.

In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing some examples of civil vs. uncivil discourse. And I invite the readers to share their experiences in trying to dialog with the character-impaired.

10 thoughts on “Civil Discourse Facilitates Loving Encounters

  1. Do unto others as you’d have done unto you. I’m guessing a narc feels exempt from this one-the way they are treating others I have a hard time believing they want to be treated.

    When I would have dealt with a narc (and I generally won’t) it’s difficult not to engage in their behavior. When I couldn’t that always made the situation worse.

    As for loving encounters? I don’t see a narc behaving in a loving manner.

    1. JC,
      In my experience with many narcs in my life, they think that loving attitude is just weak. In fact, I’ve had many who think this and said it out loud… “you think you’re the only one who loves everyone in this family?” No, I said, why do you say that. “Because you act like you are.” In what way do I act like that? NO ANSWER!!! LOL!??? No explanation???
      I don’t think it, but it seems they are convicted, jealous or ??? because I am loving and patient with all the kids, small and big!!!
      My nieces and nephews look to me for answers in their confusion of the hypocrisy they witness and endure!
      I’m not perfect by any means, but my life and character are not marked by hypocrisy.
      The narc wants what you have but won’t bend the knee to serve what others need. (In my opinion)

  2. I was reading “In sheeps clothing” last night and something that stood out to me is that narcs are “emotionally independent”. Which explains why my daughter seems to need nobody. But how can that be? As a human being we need other people, we were born social creatures. Somehow their desire to not need anyone must get circumvented somehow in their behaviors. No wonder they are so miserable at times. I would think anyone who wants to believe they need no one is not going to make civil discourse a priority. Its going to be all about getting their needs satisfied and little concern for anyone else.

    1. kat

      Speaking from my experiences of being formerly married to a CDN long-term, not only was he emotionally independent, needing nobody, he never did ask for help or assistance, me or anyone else, nor did he like being asked to help or give assistance. It was a leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone.
      What he did need, though, was to fulfill his addictions of gambling, prostitutes and drugs.
      Now that he’s lost so much he does now seem to “need” my five year old grandson, whom he spends time with frequently and assists with babysitting without hesitation.
      I don’t like it, but it’s not my call – I’m only the grandmother.

      1. Lucy,
        My ex narc husband came up here to supposedly be a “grandpa” but had no interest in the grandkids – he just had nowhere else to go and my daughter still wanted a relationship with him. Maybe your ex will lose interest in the grandson, hopefully.

        1. kat

          What a jerk. He lied to save his own face, but it really didn’t work. You still knew what he was up to.
          I can understand about your daughter. My daughter also still wants a relationship even though he treats her poorly. It’s emotional abuse. These daughters need the love from their dad, and all they’re getting is games and abuse.
          I hope soon she gets fed up with it and sets strict boundaries or walks away from him. He doesn’t deserve her or the grandson’s time.

          1. Lucy,
            That’s whats so heartbreaking to me – of course a girl wants to be loved by their Dad, so did my son. And they know that and use it. My daughter knew what he was and what he was like but just seemed to excuse a lot of it. But then she has some narc stuff going on too, just not to his degree of narcissism. Games and abuse is right, when they need love and affirmation. He may be doing it because then he still has hooks in you and your daughter. But like you said, its your daughter’s choice, and hopefully she will see through him and know that she has to protect herself.

      2. Kat,

        I would when referring to a CDN, prefer to use the term emotionally vacant.

        Perhaps your son/daughter is hoping for something your ex may never be capable of. I know I hoped for that with my mother she may be available in a nurturing way any child needs a parent.

        1. JC,
          That’s what I experience with my daughter and son, emotionally vacant all right. I guess I haven’t gotten the message yet, I keep looking for love from them and never get it. Guess they just don’t have it to give.
          Today was the worst day of my life. First my son left a couple months ago, he never calls, rarely ever answers a text. Today my daughter left for out of state, she never told me she will miss me, or anything. I know shes excited and I don’t blame her, but I’m not a stranger, I raised her to the very best of my ability, put everything I could into my kids and the outcome is one rarely communicates with me and the other can never express any love. Its depressing.

      3. Lucy,

        I bet as your grandson matures the nature of the relationship will change. Emotionally many CDN are developementaly arrested emotionally at a adolescent age. Perhaps, your X hasn’t progressed past a 10 year old.

        Once your grandson matures past the X’s stunted emotional age the X will envy your grandson, the relationship will change unless your X manages to form or even clone your grandson. I can guarantee the X has sick alterior motives. Its like with you, your X was jealous of all your gifts and your emotional maturity which he was always manipulating and taking credit for.

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