There’s a growing understanding amongst just about everyone, the religious and not, the political and apolitical, the old and young. No matter who you are, everyone seems to be in agreement about one thing - something is deeply wrong with our country. But what? We complain about the police, our politicians, teachers, and big tech companies. Day by day, the list keeps getting longer. While we boast about solutions, our problems continue.
And of all of the things we hate, we hate each other the most. We divide ourselves by income, race, sex, sexuality, political party, and on and on. While everyone may think they have solutions to problems, nothing gets done because we don’t get along. We don’t work together. We don’t even know how to talk to one another.
Someone with a different perspective is automatically our enemy. And those that agree with us keep us trapped in an echo chamber, never growing outside of our comfort zone.
Thus, we argue, we fight, we riot, on and on, spreading hate in our own unique ways, leaving our country to burn, sometimes literally.
All of our problems can’t be solved overnight, but if we hope to solve anything amicably, then we have to start by restoring civility to our thoughts, words, conversations, and then to our communities.
Unsurprisingly, the Bible offers us at least 5 ways to restore civility to our communities. As the tried and true saying goes, when there’s a will there’s a way. If you’re willing to do your part, then read on. There’s work to be done.
Here are 5 ways to restore civility to our communities:
“Commit your activities to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3, CSB)
The first step toward change, and toward restoring civility to our lives, is to commit. Christians know that a commitment to God is needed to deepen our faith and become more like Christ. A commitment to anything is needed to make changes. Relationships. Habits. Starting a business. For one reason or another, our society has become resistant to commitment.
We scoff at the idea of marriage that lasts forever, and ghost people who want more than superficial conversations and hookups.
Here’s why commitment changes life for the better - a commitment is a promise to see something through, a means to an end. When we commit to God, we become more like Him in thoughts and behavior. Commitment to marriage will decrease our country’s increasing divorce rate. In friendships, commitment keeps people together and helps ease the rate of loneliness pervading our communities. With more commitment, there would be more fathers in homes and more families where the parents and children love one another despite their differences.
Commitment is not always easy, but it is a choice, one we can decide to make today.
“If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)
Compromise is not always possible, but if possible should be considered. These days, compromise hardly enters into our conversations. In many ways, we imitate our politicians. The moment we learn someone has a different perspective on something we value, we stop talking to them. No wonder Congress has a hard time agreeing on anything. No wonder there are so many divorces and broken homes in our country.
Compromising allows us to take account of someone else’s perspective and figure out how we can achieve the best of both worlds. We discover new ways of thinking, which sometimes helps us realize we had the wrong perspective from the beginning. Compromising puts value in the other person’s words and thoughts. We need to value each other if we want civility.
3. Agree to Disagree
“A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1)
When compromise is not possible and we still want to maintain an amicable relationship, we have to agree to disagree. This means walking away from a particular conversation, accepting the stated differences. Otherwise, we risk escalation.
These days, we don’t struggle with walking away from conversations, we struggle with accepting differences. We walk away from the chat, if we even have one, and from the relationship. This is not the same as agreeing to disagree. This is wanting to be right and not allowing room for anything else.
When we try to force people to agree with us, we risk causing more strife in the process. Not everyone can be reasoned with, and not everyone cares to reason. Sometimes people need time to come to their senses and see things our way. If we can agree to disagree, then we accomplish three things.
We show grace when the other person is wrong, we allow for time to reflect, and we get to maintain a healthy relationship.
“Listen to counsel and receive instruction so that you may be wise later in life.” (Proverbs 19:20)
Wisdom comes from listening, and listening is not something we spend a ton of time doing. We’d much rather talk about ourselves, our wants, our needs, our ambitions, and what we had for breakfast this morning.
Few can deny that with the advent of social media and the modern uptick of moral relativism, Americans, in general, have become much more selfish. We’re consumed with ourselves pleasing our own desires. Taking care of others is less of a concern, unless they benefit us in some way.
When we take a different approach, listening, not speaking, allows us to change our focus from self to others. We get to hear from God and other people and discover what we can do to serve them. When we serve others, we help foster strong and supportive relationships in our communities.
5. Find God
“You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
Part of the reason so many of us hate one another today is that we don’t see the inherent value in those opposed to us. For those who are not religious, why would you place any value on someone you deem a racist, murderer, or something else evil? Only with a belief in God, can we truly understand the value each of us has as a human being. We all have value in God’s eyes, but if we don’t believe in God, then we don’t see the inherent value.
The change needed then is to find God, first for ourselves, and then we will begin to see God in others. We are all His creations. The more we can embody a godly perspective, the better we can role-model His love for our community.
We’re not happy with each other. That’s for sure. We’re not happy with God. We’ve abandoned Him. Moreover, we’re not happy with ourselves as we waste away in front of television and cell phone screens or seek identity in skin color and sexuality. However, the past does not predict the future. We have the power to change ourselves. Tomorrow can be different. And with change, we can restore civility to our communities.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/shironosov
Aaron D'Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He's an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo. Check out his short story “Serenity.”