Pearls & Vodka

Civility: is civility as dead as chivalry?

Is civility dead?

Surely you’ve heard the old adage, “chivalry is dead” in reference to our changing culture.

Over the past few days the word, “civility” has been thrown around a lot.

Civility: what does it mean?

Definitions are a funny business.

There are the technical definitions of words usually housed in a dictionary. For the young folks reading today, a dictionary is a really thick book made of paper with words typed on them. You probably will understand better the URL,

But definitions grow, they mature, they decline, they increase, they decrease. They change. They are not static. When life intersects with established definitions you have reality.

That being said, the actual definition of the world “civility” is: courtesy, or politeness.

You’ve probably heard statements like, “they were very civil towards each other.”  We typically associate that to meaning they were not hostile towards each other, no punches were thrown, no one cursed at anyone.

The word civility has been in the air a little more so lately thanks in part to our political climate.

Some will blame that on President Trump. And his Twitter account really doesn’t do a lot to exonerate him from that charge. Some blame the animosity on previous administrations. And the reality is, you can point fingers all day, the options of people and circumstances to place blame are endless.

How polite are you?

I don’t necessarily mean do you say, “yes sir” and “no ma’am,” though those are things I preach to my 2.5 year old.

Listen, I am as guilty as the next person.

With all that’s going on in the world, with personal relationships being a part of the equation, I’m not the most polite person on social media. And I need to do better, to be more mindful, to exercise more civility.

Would you say the same thing about yourself?

Do you see it in yourself? Or are you a little more focused on the lack of civility in those around you?

What does civility look like?

I think civility gets an unfair shake because it is often mistaken with being meek and mild.

Disagreements can be done civilly. Holding opposing opinions can be done civilly. Questioning can be done civilly.

…and should be.

Civility doesn’t look like name-calling, insulting, hate-filled speech. Civility doesn’t look like demeaning or demoralizing conversations, or Tweets.

Civility does look like treating others with respect. Civility does look like listening to the opinions of others. Civility does look like facilitating conversations with those we don’t agree with. Civility is refusing to see others as the enemy just because you believe, or think, or look, or love, or worship, or sound different.

Why is civility important?

Today on the Pantsuit Politics Podcast co-host Beth Silvers said something that really struck a chord with me. She mentioned that as parents we focus on teaching our kids how to be successful, but we don’t focus on teaching them how to be good people.

And to me, that’s why civility is so important.

Even if you are not a parent.

We are so focused on being successful in our society, we fail to stop and focus on being good people.

Being a good person doesn’t mean you are perfect, far from it.

But it does mean you work hard, you try hard, you help others, you speak politely to others, you listen to others, you share with others, you find ways to compromise, and you do no harm.

If we raise a generation that only cares about being successful, can you even imagine the discourse in our nation? There are pockets of that already in our society and you cannot turn a blind eye to the destruction it brings.

Are you a Maxine Waters or an Ellen Degeneres?

At a rally in Los Angeles on Saturday, Congresswoman Maxine Waters said, “Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up. And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” [1]

I don’t really have words for how dangerous that mentality is to our culture. That would be a fantastic example of the lack of civility. Words like that are what’s wrong in our society today. And she’s not the only one. Folks on the other side of the aisle spread of lot of dissension with their verbiage as well.

Two wrongs do not make a right.

We need to be bigger people. We need to be better people.

Ellen Degeneres ends every show with “be kind to one another.” 

It’s really that simple. Just be kind. Maxine’s words were not kind. Donald Trump’s tweets are often times not kind.

But we can choose to be kind.

We can choose to be civil.

And we can choose to teach civility to our children and those around us.

Be kind to one another…

For what it is worth, I do not believe civility (or chivalry) are dead and is very much worth fighting for.


Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash