This week we honored my Dad’s 89th birthday. Unfortunately, he is no longer here to celebrate with us but nonetheless we remember his beginning and most importantly his impact. My Dad, on many levels, was the greatest person I have ever known. While I miss going to him for his wisdom, I try to live my life through his example. One of the aspects of his life that stands out to me is that he appreciated each moment of every day and treated people with dignity. Yes, I know that he had his tough times and struggles just like all of us, but I remember him cherishing the blessings God gave him; he lived his life with integrity, compassion, thankfulness—he lived his live with character.
I look around today and see myself and many others who I come in contact with not doing so…or at least not consistently. As a society we have become so divided that it has led to uncivility. Instead of embracing and growing from our differences we use them as justification for bad, if not dangerous, behavior. While there is nothing inherently wrong with standing strong to your beliefs and I believe that respectful and civil debate is healthy for us individually and collectively I do not see much civility today.
One of the things my Dad taught me was not to say something about someone unless you are willing to say it face-to-face with them. Look at the comments section of just about any on-line news article or a social media thread and you will quickly see that is generally not the case today. Through the anonymity of technology people often think they have the right of rudeness, disrespect, vileness, threats, and hate. I recently read an article about a professional football player who is struggling with some personal issues which affect his on-field performance. This man weighs about 315 pounds and can probably bench-press a Mack Truck. I almost chuckled at many of the comments made about this man thinking “would you say that to his face?” I’m talking about some of the nastiest, most judgmental comments imaginable; my point is that many people feel empowered, even entitled, to behave uncivilly while hidden by the cloak of the Internet.
I try to live by the example of character I learned through my Dad. More importantly, I strive to live by how Scripture tells us to treat others. Specifically, Galatians 5:22-23 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” You see, when we are living our lives in the Spirit through Christ, we do not rely on our works on how we treat those with who we interact—our works fail and we revert to our human emotions—our human character.