Choosing Civility

by Sr. Nancy Miller, OSF

The twelfth in a series on active nonviolence from the Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa (

 Clinton Sisters

Negative political campaigns continue to bombard social media, and the daily news highlights the worst of human interaction and behavior.  It is time for a different voice to be given air time and media attention, and that voice is yours. The voice of people of faith and good will, expressing positive, alternative ways of interacting grounded in a spirit of civility, is needed.  This spirit of civility consists of a willingness to listen and to treat others with respect, to offer differing perspectives without criticizing, and to work toward common ground and goals. Interacting in this way exemplifies active nonviolence. It creates a win-win scenario and is simply called choosing civility.

Pope Francis’ address to the U.S. Congress last September referenced choosing civility as he beckoned the members to promote respect for the human person and to a renewed spirit of cooperation.  His message is applicable to each one of us. He said, “Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility…You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk.”  He further highlighted that, “Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.”  He cautioned against polarization and encouraged efforts toward restoring hope, addressing injustices, which in turn, builds true peace and promotes the well-being of individuals.

Choosing civility is not a new concept; another Francis – St. Francis of Assisi – who lived 800 years ago at a time filled with turbulence, divisions, and warring groups, gave witness to it.   St. Francis of Assisi called forth the best in people by greeting everyone he met with “Peace be with you, good people.”  This example of respect and openness to all must have impacted the people he met to also choose civility in their relationships.  I think “Peace be with you, good people” could become the new placard in every political campaign and also become everyone’s bumper sticker.  Speaking words of peace does have a positive impact.  We will still have our differences, but if we choose civility, we can create a positive environment and a community that moves forward.

Peace be with you, good people.

Nancy Miller, OSF

Published in: on June 6, 2016 at 11:07 am  Leave a Comment  

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