George Washington had the right idea.
“Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present,” he wrote in a journal when he was a teenager, putting to paper more than one hundred rules of civility.
We’re saying the same today, albeit with different words. Calls for civility came daily during the recent American campaign season, it seemed. It was within that milieu that featuring a UW professor’s research and a former student’s work on two human qualities — forgivenesss and dignity — had particular appeal to us at On Wisconsin.
When I turned to online sources to confirm that treating others respectfully was a trending topic, I was richly rewarded. I discovered the National Civility Center, the Civility Project, the Institute for Civility in Government — even the Civility School (although that link took me to a web page that mentions cotillions and mastering chopsticks).
Then I saw a news headline reporting “Grandmothers Seek More Civility from Congress,” and I knew this was serious business.
These days our discourse can devolve into an exchange more combative than civil. We are so determined to use our mouths to argue that we forget to use our ears to listen to other points of view. Apparently powerful forces, such as grandmas and hurricanes, are needed to convince us to work through our differences.
As we struggle with these differences, our coverage of Robert Enright and Donna Hicks explains how they are finding ways to deal with tremendously difficult circumstances: helping those who have experienced horrific personal injury and entire countries that are at war.
Conflict has always been part of humankind, but thanks to Enright and Hicks, we see a way forward. We can apply their lessons to our own lives, pledging to forgive, to value dignity, and to demonstrate civility as we navigate our complex world.
Published in the Spring 2013 issue
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