By Shirley Mays

The word “civility” has several definitions: courteous behavior, politeness, the act of showing regard for others. Civility also has many synonyms: consideration, courtesy, good manners, graciousness, cordiality, gentility, pleasantry and propriety. Unfortunately, I feel we are living in times where if civility is not dead, it certainly has been on life support for a while.

This, of course, is not the first time in history that neighbors have disagreed about barking dogs or arguing children, or that politicians with differing views have denigrated and castigated their opponents. However, it does seem that we have elevated the art of nastiness to new heights (or depths, as the case may be). People I have known for years have stopped talking to me because my opinion isn’t the same as theirs. They have communicated this decision to me in no uncertain terms, including disclosing their disdain for my family, me, and anyone I’ve ever been linked to. I have observed young children imitating the bad behavior they see our leaders engage in; mocking those who look, or feel, or act differently than what has been deemed the norm. What happened to the days when we apologized if we were wrong or hurt someone’s feelings? When we gave others the benefit of the doubt and allowed for grace and redemption?

Beginning today, let’s start a movement to improve our country and our lives by prioritizing civility in our day-to-day interactions with one another. Let’s make a conscious decision to be kind; to not return insult with injury. Although not an invitation to be a doormat, practicing civility provides us with the opportunity to operate from our higher selves; to recognize the intrinsic love, and goodness, and kindness not only in others, but in ourselves. As Opal Tometi once said, “Civility is the recognition that all people have dignity that’s inherent to their person, no matter their religion, race, gender, sexuality or ability.”

2020 has been a tough year for a number of people. Many of us can’t wait for it to end! Let’s help 2020 go out on a high note by making civility a part of our lives. By internalizing the principles of civility and acting upon them in our thoughts, words and deeds, we give permission to others to also lay down their weapons of rudeness, affront and upset. Try it – I guarantee you will grow to like it!

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Lucretia Free