Saturday, August 9, 2014

What I will teach my children about civility

I read an article recently entitled "Who Deserves Respect?".  I was impressed and challenged.  Although we live in a culture that touts diversity and tolerance as paramount, individuals often speak so disparagingly of those who don't share their views as though to suggest that dissidents are unworthy of respect.  I hope to model and teach my children otherwise.

"Civility is due not to a person’s opinions, but to the person himself. Such civility is right and just because, while we may be very convinced that our opponent is wrong, our opponent is still a person with dignity. The just response to error is, as Socrates pointed out long ago, not mockery but argument. Civility is, moreover, prudent and good because if we reject it, if we indulge the desire to denounce, we destroy the civic friendship that is necessary to preserve a free and diverse society."
~Carson Holloway, "Who Deserves Respect?" The Witherspoon Institute Public Discourse

Civil disagreement is so difficult to learn.  It is also a lost art.  It is so much easier to denounce or slander a person who disagrees with us or who promotes ideas that we find repulsive or untenable.  I need to begin by teaching my children now, at home, and by ensuring that when they hear me disagreeing with someone, they hear me doing it in a respectful way.  I recently read the American Girl book, Felicity Learns a Lesson with G-Bear, and I was tremendously impressed by how the protagonist Merrimans were depicted as a family.  They were embroiled in the confusing, contentious revolutionary period, yet they were determined to be civil and respectful in their disagreements with their friends and neighbors.  Such lessons are just as important in my life as they are for my daughter.

Lord, let civility begin with me, even with those with whom I disagree.

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