Archives for posts with tag: Civility

My twelve year-old granddaughter is a very positive and happy person. She wants to talk and hear about positive things. At times I understand that she is simply naïve but I appreciate the fact that she has a positive outlook and wants to see the best in everything and everyone. And she tries very hard to be the best person she can be.

Recently I heard a response to the question of why the news media seem to always report only “bad” things. The reason given was because “bad news” is not the norm. There are far more stories of “good news.” The exception to the rule makes something newsworthy. Therefore tragedy, hostility, and other unseemly attitudes, words, and acts are reported because they are the exceptions.

I am not sure that is actually the reality but it is one perspective and possibility.

One of my teachers had a saying that bad news goes around the world twice before good news gets its shoes on. It certainly does seem that bad news travels faster than good news. Word of a robbery seems to spread much farther and faster than a report of a random act of kindness. Road rage makes the headlines but the many motorists who are patient and tolerant are seemingly absent.

I am often reminded that we see and hear what we are looking and listening for. Our ears perk up at juicy gossip and our eyes widen when we see something unseemly.

Today as I was driving I saw blue lights flashing in the distance. Instinctively I slowed down and expected to see an accident or someone receiving a ticket for violating the traffic laws. Maybe even a person being arrested for some criminal act.

But I saw something very different. Two police vehicles were diverting traffic around a stalled minivan and two officers were changing a flat tire for the driver of the stranded automobile. That was a surprise but a welcome sight. The officers were white and the motorist was black. The officers were male and the driver was female.

There are so many reports these days about white law enforcement officers inflicting violence on black citizens and headlines about men exploiting women. Nothing that I say here is intended to make light of these incidents. Violence against any human being is never justified and is even more detestable when it comes from persons in authority or from racist and/or sexist attitudes.

The experience I am reporting is meant simply to remind us that acts of kindness, generosity, gentleness, mercy, and respect occur all the time. We must not allow the “exceptions,” as horrible as they are, to lead us to believe that civility and human dignity have disappeared from our society. That charity and hospitality are things of the past.

What I saw today also sensitizes me to situations where I can be helpful. It reminds me to pay attention to those around me who might need assistance or support. It helps me to remember that no good deed is small. It aids me in focusing on others and not to be so self-centered. It reminds me to look for opportunities to “live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward (me)” (Matthew 5:48, The Message).

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

Often I am confronted with difficult issues and people are expressing drastically different opinions. Sometimes I agree with one perspective and disagree with others. What should I do? What do you do?

Do you just concede, give in? Does it seem like too much trouble and not worth it to fight/argue? No matter how much the issue is discussed or debated, nothing is going to change. No one will gain new understanding. Don’t fight it.

Another possible response is to determine that you are going to prove your position is the right one. Win this argument. Conquer! After all, in everything there are winners and losers and you are not going to be defeated. Your opinion will prevail.

Do you listen to all perspectives to see if there are some points that make sense, even if others do not. Are you willing to make an effort to understand where the other persons are coming from and learn from them. Compromise is an acceptable option.

Is it wise to simply accept or at least fail to object to anything that people throw at you? It has been said that silence speaks consent so is your reluctance to pose questions or objections a good alternative?

If you refuse to give in and are insist on winning, what is the collateral damage? Is it necessary to have victors and vanquished on every matter?

Is compromise is an alternative to conceding and conquering? Is it possible that no one has all of the right answers? Can anyone see all sides of an issue at one time? Can you moderate your views and opinions and still maintain personal integrity? Is it possible to have a win-win conclusion?

I believe there are absolutes. Issues on which there is no debate. Practices and perspectives that are essential to orderly and ethical living. But I believe most of what we argue about and are divided over are secondary issues for which there is more than one “right” answer. Even when we cannot agree, it seems the right thing to do is at least be civil and respectful of the other person.

If you know anything about the Bible you probably are aware that the leaders of the church in Corinth were not always of one mind. The Apostle Paul counseled them to “be in harmony with each other, and live in peace—and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor. 13:11 CEB). He did not instruct them to be in agreement on everything but to value one another enough to work to “harmonize” their attitudes and actions. They did not have to all sing the same note but to blend their various voices.

We can make beautiful music together but that means each of us sings our note. God help us!

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

Can we agree to disagree? That is the question posed by Gracie Bond Staples in the Atlanta Journal Constitution last week. Quoting Wes Parham, and organizational analyst, she suggested that the “hater mindset… (is) taking hold of the country, creating virtual echo chambers that confirm our biases rather than challenge them.” This way of thinking prefers “to dismiss any views that are contrary to their own.”

Gracie Bonds Staples, KIRO 7

Staples said, and I agree, that “simply having an opposing view is not the issue. The issue is when we view people with opposite views as the enemy.” Parham goes on to say when we disagree the tendency is to think “you are not like us, and because you’re not like us, I don’t have to treat you with civility and respect.”

Staples writes from the perspective of a practicing Christian. I do not know about Parham’s religious beliefs but both exhibit a kindred spirit with John Wesley, the social and religious reformer of the 18th century. In his sermon on “A Catholic Spirit” (1755), the Anglican priest and father of the Methodist Movement asserted that “love is due to all mankind.” In his Christian understanding that means that we are supposed to love all people because Jesus instructed his followers not only to love those who thought and acted like you but to “love your enemies, bless those cursing you, do good to those hating you, and pray for those accusing you falsely, and persecuting you” (Matthew 5:43).

Wesley goes further to say, “Although every man necessarily believes that every particular opinion which he holds is true (for to believe any opinion is not true, is the same thing as not to hold it), yet can no man be assured that all his own opinions, taken together, are true. To be ignorant of many things, and to mistake in some, is the necessary condition of humanity.”

Wesley continues, “Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking that he desires they should allow him, and will no more insist on their embracing his opinions than he would have them to insist on his embracing theirs. He is patient with those who differ from him, and only asks him:  ‘Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart?’ If it be, give me your hand.”

This does not necessarily mean that either person would change their opinion. Wesley explains, “Keep your opinion and I will keep mine, and that as steadily as ever. You need not even endeavor to come over to me, or bring me over to you. I do not desire you to dispute those points, or to hear or speak one word concerning them. Leave all opinions alone on one side and the other: only give me your hand.”

Believing that love is more powerful than anything else, let us seek to maintain a spirit of civility and a respect for all human beings regardless of our differing opinions. God help us!

Jamie Jenkins

 

My grandchildren speak three languages. Don’t leave me now. I promise I won’t bore you with an exhaustive description of how wonderful they are. This is more than a story about my grandchildren. It is an attempt to offer a parable for living.

Jamie and Felicia were born in Tokyo and lived there until 4 years ago. They are now ages 14 and 11.Thus Japanese is their first language but they are fluent in English as well. They have just moved from Spain where they have lived for the past two years. Although they spoke no Spanish when they arrived, they were immediately enrolled in Spanish schools. As result, after two years of immersion in Spanish culture they have added a third language. At the end of this month they are moving to Mexico and will have to adjust to the Mexican version of the Spanish language.

The main train station.

I promised that this was not about my grandchildren and it is not. Rather I offer their experiences as an example of the importance and the difficulty of being multi-lingual. For the first years of their life they lived in a “Japanese world” in Tokyo. Except for spoken English at home and with a small group of other English speakers, everything was in the native language of their mother. Their parents intentionally spoke only English at home so the children became comfortable in the languages of both my son and daughter-in-law.

Two weeks after moving to Valencia, Spain in 2015 both children (ages 9 and 12) began school where all classes and assignments were in an unfamiliar language. Their lessons presented in the classroom and their conversations with classmates were in Spanish. Homework assignments had to be translated from Spanish to English and then back from English to Spanish. This was hard but as a result they now can communicate comfortably in the new language they learned.

Now what does that have to do with anything?

image of language learning - languages crossword  - JPG

We live in a world that is increasingly diverse and all of us could benefit from learning a second (or third language). The purpose of this writing is not to suggest that in a literal sense. However, I am proposing that there is another “language” that we need to learn for the well-being of ourselves and our world. It is the language of love.

Inscriptions of vandals in the fortress of Santa Barbara. Stock Photography

One does not have to look far or know much to realize that our civilized society shows many signs of becoming/being very un-civil. We are seeing all too frequent expressions of anger and hostility instead of understanding and mutual respect. There is the increasing need to learn or re-learn the language of love.

Yes!

The language of love is not easy but I believe it is necessary for our survival. Let me suggest an exercise that might help in this effort. Every day for the next week read Matthew 5:21-48 and Luke 6:27-42 in the Bible. Try to understand and to practice the principles of that “new language.” I believe it will make a difference in your life and in our world.

 

Jamie Jenkins

 

I have just returned from Washington, DC. Along with my grandchildren (and their parents), my wife and I spent one day in the area at Mount Vernon, the plantation home of George Washington. The mansion built by the first president of the United States is situated on the banks of the Potomac River on land that had been in his family since 1674.

When George Washington’s ancestors acquired the estate it was known as Little Hunting Creek Plantation, after the nearby Little Hunting Creek. Washington’s older half-brother, Lawrence Washington inherited the 5,000 acre estate and changed its name to Mount Vernon in honor of Vice Admiral Edward Vernon, famed for the War of Jenkins’ Ear. When George Washington inherited the property he retained the name.

George Washington came into possession of the estate in 1754. The mansion that sits on the property now was built in stages between 1758 and 1778. It occupies the site of an earlier, smaller house built by George Washington’s father Augustine.  Mount Vernon was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and is today listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Among the many things I learned during the enjoyable visit was that sometime before the age of 16, George Washington transcribed Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation. The list of 110 principles by which, supposedly, proper decent people must abide, comes from a French etiquette manual written by Jesuits in 1595. As a handwriting exercise Washington copied word-for-word Francis Hawkins’ translation which was published in England about 1640. Some of the principles seem dated but others are very appropriate guidelines for social interaction today. Below are a few that I believe are timeless (original language and spelling is retained):

-Keep your Nails clean and Short, also your Hands and Teeth Clean yet without Shewing any great Concern for them.

-To one that is your equal, or not much inferior you are to give the cheif Place in your Lodging and he to who ’tis offered ought at the first to refuse it but at the Second to accept though not without acknowledging his own unworthiness.

-Strive not with your Superiers in argument, but always Submit your Judgment to others with Modesty.

-When a man does all he can though it Succeeds not well blame not him that did it.

-Wherein you reprove Another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than Precepts.

-Be not hasty to beleive flying Reports to the Disparagement of any.

-Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad Company.

-Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy.

-Be not apt to relate News if you know not the truth thereof.

-Be not Curious to Know the Affairs of Others neither approach those that Speak in Private.

-Undertake not what you cannot perform but be carefull to keep your promise.

-When you Speak of God or his Atributes, let it be Seriously & wt. Reverence.

-Honour & Obey your Natural Parents altho they be Poor.

-Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience.

Jamie Jenkins