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A Return to True Civility

Although we are imperfect mortals, we can still treat others with love and civility even if we don’t always agree with them.

Picture quote: two boys sitting near the water. "When we live true to our moral sense of how to treat others,... our civility comes from the heart."

Photo by Cole Huston

In today’s society, “civility” often sounds like an old-fashioned word. Why? In his publication “Civility and Moral Being,” Terrance D. Olson points out that in our day, we sometimes justify treating others uncivilly as our attitude toward civility itself changes.

Most people think of civility as politeness or avoiding disagreements. Actually, civility comes from morality—acting the way God would have us act.

When we lose sight of God’s will, we tend to get discouraged, act uncivilly toward each other, and then excuse ourselves by saying, “I’m only human.” Yes, we are human with mortal faults. However, Olson offers that “it is not the human condition of being imperfect that fuels modern incivility—it is the assumption that civility is impossible to experience precisely because of the human condition.”

Two common misunderstandings of civility are as follows:

  1. Some believe that civility is a means to an end. Politeness without interest in the other person’s well-being is not civility. While it is good to be friendly, we must have the right intentions. If we are friendly only to get what we want, we are not honest in our intentions.
  1. Some believe that since we are imperfect, it’s not possible to be civil all the time. Disagreement doesn’t have to lead to contention. Frustration doesn’t have to lead to incivility. As children of our Heavenly Father, we have the agency to choose to respond to difficult situations with love.

“When we live true to our moral sense of how to treat others, . . . our civility comes from the heart,” Olson writes. As we emulate the Savior, we can become more sincere and loving in our interactions.

Read “Civility and Moral Being,” by Terrance D. Olson.

Source: The Wheatley Institution

—Tiana Ahuna, Mormon Insights

feature image by pixabay user unsplash

Find more insights 

Learn how we are to love each other in 1 John 3:18.

Discover how you can turn outward and be more civil by reading or watching President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk, “On Being Genuine.”

Consider ways you can follow the Savior more closely by reviewing the steps in “Following in His Footsteps.

Read Jesus’s counsel to his followers in the ancient Americas in 3 Nephi 12 from the Book of Mormon, or watch the Bible video of a similar sermon that he gave to his followers in Palestine.

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One Comment

  1. This is such a great reminder for me. It’s really easy to forget civility in tense times in the social and political spheres and in our own lives.

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