Friday, November 3, 2017

The civility of a people is reflected in their discourse

If the civility of a people is reflected in their discourse we are in deep trouble. When a lack of civility becomes a way of life in the most public way possible through social media it is clear that there is no sense of shame anymore. From personal attacks to the foulest of language our public discourse has degenerated significantly in recent years.

As a reader of history it should be noted that there have been other periods when public discourse left a great deal to be desired. Ulysses S. Grant, for instance was dogged most of his career by outright lies regarding a supposed drinking problem he had. There has been fake news around for a long time as well as the denigration of others (to someone else's benefit) as a means of making us feel well by comparison. 

That being said, the level of discourse among a people is an indicator of the health or lack of health within a society. For instance, the crude language that was used by Nazi Germany to describe their enemies is a good example - or the hate group rhetoric of white supremacists in our own nation. In the past election, the name calling from the front was embarrassing along with the twitter wars that are increasingly crude and malicious - going not to the ideas that others espouse but to the personhood of men and women made in God's Image. 

This last point is an important one. Free societies have fought for the right to debate ideas, strategy and philosophy. That is what elections are to be about. However, when we move from a debate regarding ideas to the willful destruction of the character and/or personhood of another we cross a line that cannot bring positive results.

Politically, it moves discussion from philosophy to often non provable accusations regarding character. Morally, it moves into sketchy territory as it assumes motives that we cannot know. Theologically, it is often a trashing of others made in the Image of God. There is simply no good outcome to a descent into uncivil discourse! Lack of civility breeds attitudes that all too often move from hateful words into hateful actions - both of which seem to be trends in our world today.

All of us should be aware of our own discourse and its consequences. Words cannot be taken back and sometimes, they are not necessary to be said at all. But if said, civility is always a better choice than lack of it.

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."

1 comment:

Roxana Rogers said...

You are so spot on! God forgive us and help us. Thank you for your boldness to speak the truth!