The last week has been momentous for America. Naturally, I found myself having several conversations during the week about what was transpiring. Therefore, I am pivoting from my original post for this week and writing this post on January 8th. To be sure, what follows is not about politics. In fact, I started taking these actions long before last week. Division, in my opinion, is so prevalent that as a leader I need to have a plan. So, below is my plan. The challenge, as always, is for you to create your own. Without civility, leadership wanes and eventually dissipates because no one follows uncivil leaders for long.
Action 1: I am flooding my mind with the Bible.
I have always been disciplined about reading the Bible. But I am upping the ante this year. Why? Simply stated, we live in an era dominated by information so I want to ensure that my mind is filled with God’s word more than anything else. To do this, I am using the app “Bible in One Year” from Alpha. I invite anyone needing some hope to join me. With regards to civility, it leads to Action 2.
Action 2: I am praying more.
Prayer, understood properly, is a means of ACTION that connects us with God to see the world in the way God sees it (i.e., as it is unveiled in his Word, the Bible). My prayer starts with confession where I spend time identifying all my messes. It then leads to repentance, or when I ask God for help to walk in the opposite direction of those messes. I then praise God using attributes in the Bible (forgiveness, sovereignty, and countless others!). Then, I move to praying for others and myself (more on that in a second). Finally, I finish with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving reorients my life to what good is happening, even on weeks like last week.
So how does prayer lead to civility? Prayer is always more about changing who you are —becoming the person God wants you to be which is always, among many other things, more loving—rather than about “getting what you want.” So, I spend time praying for others, especially those I disagree with. I do this because it helps me see the world from their perspective by thinking about what they might need from God. This inevitability grows my love for them. For example, I once prayed so much for a customer who was giving me a hard time that I started loving them six months into it (it took about six months for me to overcome my lack of love!). A year later, after this customer had been fired from their own company, they called me first. This is not to brag; it is just an example of what prayer does: Praying increased my love for this person. And prayer always does this! To this day I think fondly of this person, despite some of the harsh things they said to me before I started praying for them.
Action 3: I am limiting my news intake to the A.M. only.
Are you still with me? If so, stop participating in the 24/7 news cycle. Seriously. STOP. It is unhealthy for everyone. Instead of doing this, I am reading two newsletters from the Wall Street Journal and a few articles in the paper that I find interesting. Then I stop, go to work, and actually work instead of being consumed by the news. When I get home at night, I unplug from the news. It will all be there in the morning. How does this help civility? Rest from the news gives one perspective and time to think. What would happen if individuals in our country thought more about what was happening rather than reacting on the spot to everything?
Action 4: I have eliminated all social media but LinkedIn.
I wrote about this last month, so I will make this brief. Social Media has positive elements so I am not going to say that it is all negative. But, my experience of it has demonstrated that people —including me! —are willing to post things on it that they would otherwise not say in public. This is not healthy. Combine it with the comparison game, or in my case, my temptation to make myself look better than I am, the right choice for me was to stop using it. If you are getting worked up reading what others are saying, either those you agree with or those you disagree with, it is time to get off of it. Let me repeat, it is time for you to shut your accounts down! Staying on, to quote Dr. Henry Cloud, is akin to having someone pee in your cereal and you complain how it tastes. Social media influences your brain and heart, and you need both to be civil. Use the time you used to spend on social media to do number 1 above, and number 5...
Action 5: I am reading more history books.
At the risk of over-generalizing, it feels like our society has lost perspective. History always gives perspective. What our country is facing right now is both similar in some ways, and different in other ways, from challenges in the past. It takes a thorough understanding of history to assess to assess what is really going on and why it matters. So, why not spend twenty minutes a day reading history and learning so that you can put what is happening in its appropriate context?
For leaders this is particularly important. If we are charting the course for others to follow, shouldn’t we have an understanding of the past? Furthermore, as it relates to civility, shouldn’t we be reading books about the wrongs of the past (like slavery and racial injustices) that grow our compassion and understanding for people not like us? And wouldn’t that time be far more impactful and more useful than reading what our high school “friend”- who we have not seen in twenty years—has to say about what happened last week on social media?
Civility is still possible.
Let that sink in because I know to many it does not feel like it.
It is going to take leaders, people that are worth following, to forge the way of civility. I am not waiting for politicians to figure this out.
Rather, I am going to be civil right now.
More aptly, I am going to love because I am loved by a heavenly Father. Thanks be to Jesus for that.
Will you join me?