Civil discourse seems a lost art these days. But very human encounter affords us an opportunity for loving, healing, connection. So it matters how mindfully we engage one another. And it reflects upon our character.
We live in an exhibitionistic, self-aggrandizing, and self-indulgent society. It’s also largely an everyone for himself or herself society. It’s hard to become a conscientious, obligated, civil, and generous person in such an environment.
True generosity is generosity of spirit. It can be as simple as a kind word to an overburdened store clerk. Yes, it can mean giving money to those in need. But it’s really more about the spirit (and character) of the giver than the need of the recipient.
Social mores and customs have loosened up considerably. Folks are not as repressed as they once were. They have less unreasonable guilt and shame about relatively inconsequential things and are therefore less “neurotic.” But we’ve paid a dear price for the “whatever feels right for you” relativism that’s replaced our older respectability norms. And we don’t have as clear a sense of decency and civility as we once had.
Behaving in a decent and civil manner doesn’t mean we have to allow ourselves to be taken advantage of or abused. It just means we don’t have to act like we believe we’ve been treated. Rather, we should act like we would want to be treated.
Treating others badly is not only bad for you (because it reinforces dysfunctional thinking an behavior patterns) but it also enables the person who’s treated you poorly to feel justified in the unhealthy attitudes and behavior they’ve exhibited.