Our Civility Reflects Our Character

Members of a civil society possess and adhere to core values. They observe particular norms and standards of behavior when dealing with others. Many of us take certain standards for granted. But doing so in our character-disturbed world is risky. Treating others with civility and generosity are two essential values for a decent society. And these days, not everyone embraces them.

The 9th “commandment” of good character demands that we conduct ourselves in a civil and generous way. Observing it allows us to see others as whole persons and not extensions of ourselves. And it reflects a value that cuts across all class socioeconomic lines. Not everyone merits our respect. (See also: Merit, Virtue, and Character) But we owe it to ourselves and everyone else to conduct ourselves with decency and civility.

The “Golden Rule”

How we treat others should not depend on how they treat us. And behaving in a decent and civil manner doesn’t mean we have to allow ourselves to be taken advantage of or abused. It just means we don’t have to act like we believe we’ve been treated. Rather, we should act like we would want to be treated.

Disturbed characters are notorious for treating us badly. Narcissists hold themselves in pathologically high esteem and those they see as beneath them in disdain or contempt. They feel above the need to be civil. And they can easily use and abuse. This hurts, to be sure. But we don’t have to act that way. The real test of our character comes with asserting and advocating for ourselves without engaging in the reprehensible ways disturbed characters treat us. It’s about being strong and firm (i.e. truly self-loving) without descending to their level.

The End of Civility in Discourse?

Today’s society has lots of problems? But all too often, what passes for political debate is little more than vicious attacking, unreasoned cajoling, and information manipulation. And when we engage in either hostile name-calling or in blind platitudes we distract ourselves from the real issues. We also inhibit a meaningful discussion of truly possible solutions. We live in a society with many pressing issues. They need our urgent attention. And we also need workable solutions. So the need for civil discourse has never been greater. But in our national debate, civility is often unfortunately quite conspicuous by its absence.

If we’re to have a prayer of truly recognizing and overcoming our many problems there are a couple of things we must do. First, people of integrity and character must come together. Second, they must engage in a fully open and honest discussion. These two requirements are inextricably interdependent. Participants have to have faced and overcome their fears, biases, insecurities, animosities and misperceptions. They must also be truly committed to the greater good. Only then can the truth emerge. And only then can it be appropriately accepted, respected, and revered when it does.

Benign Confrontation

Confronting problems and challenging each other in a frank, yet benign and clean-spirited way has never been easy. But our times compel us to do so with a level of sincerity and commitment most of us are not used to displaying. The art of “benign confrontation” is the centerpiece of effective therapy when it comes to the character-impaired. (See also: Learning to Confront Benignly and Effectively) But we could all stand to learn how to confront more effectively. We need to confront our disturbed relationship partners as well as our societal problems firmly yet benignly. And we can’t afford to fail at this. There’s too much at stake.

I’ll have more to say about properly heeding good character’s 9th command in the coming weeks. And you can read more about all these matters in all of my books.

Character Matters will again be a live program Sunday Dec. 18, so I can take calls. The following Sunday, Christmas Day, you’ll be treated to a rebroadcast of an earlier program.

Check out the additional dates recently added for workshops.

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5 thoughts on “Our Civility Reflects Our Character

  1. When the troubles with my husband started in 1985 upon his return from 3 and a half years 956 days of them spent under water. We wanted a two year period to let the community and society have a little breathing space with the over 160 other military returnees on his plant job that year, Since his UAW contract gave him the entire amount of his seniority that had accrued with his honorable discharge. He came home with more seniority than 60 percent of the workforce which made up the communities employment of over 7500 personell. In other words he was able to come back and make a number of lesser seniority over 4200 people. They could be forced off their shifts and jobs, Could be forced to work weekends and holidays my husband and others like him did not want to work. Take the vacation slots they wanted.
    Most everyone there just wanted them to come home and do as they were told.
    Within three days I was having to tell my husband that there would be no home life or sex for him if he did not just let things settle for two years. Then we could start our life as a husband and wife. It was over him putting his shift preference in and bumping a girl with 8 and a half years less seniority than he came home with, who was only 19 and would have ruined her social life.

    He did as asked the next two years, Did not take one day off or press his rights, Then The ROME vacation came up in may June 1987. I was again begging that he back off taking his vacation to let the same girl who was then a friend have the Vacation slot to go to Rome and get married. So I was asked to get him to back off what would have been his first vacation and day off since 1982 the day before our wedding. He agreed and made me sign and swear on my bible that any time, any way and any place he wanted his vacation upon our return from Rome, I would be a willing sex partner, and travel companion. I did not know the trap he set for me and everyone else that set up the next 26 years in our life. We flew in on June 13th at 730 am. We left feeling embarrassed after the way he made us look like a bunch of slave drivers leaving. We had Talked in Rome about when he should consider taking his vacation and I flew back with visions of us going to a nice beach and starting our life together any three weeks from the End of the holiday down week in January to Valientins day it was just six months away and it was the only time a vacation would not interfere with other plans.

    When We were going through customs he was yanking our luggage to the van just as fast as it cleared just about dragging customs inspectors with him.
    I was sent through the line first to find out why he was in such a hurry.
    Our Intension was to stop on the way home for breakfast and present him with as peace offering gift of a new pair of boots and start plans for the Vacation we thought he should take that winter. WE found out there was nothing he was going to wait another six months for. No matter who’s plans he was killing in the deal. He had already checked out the possibilities of mid winter vacations where there was not snow, and found that there were none available until March the next year 10 months away, He did not want to risk winter weather to drive someplace and totally turned Vegas down> I found myself telling him he was not going to get his way and I was not keeping my promise under this duress, I was shoved onto a bus with a copy of the divorce filing he was making, The Guardianship on me for my mother to take over. All the Saviings and told the household goods were going into storage and after the divorce was final he would start over. His father went to the phones while he was putting me on the bus to my mothers, I was crying and asking why he was being this way he could just take us home and go to work and the next week we could figure out something He could even take the 4th off and go to lake Michigan for a few days. He said yeah just let the slave get to the day before and then tell him that some body else needed the holiday more just like the last two years.

    I was on the bus as everyone loaded into the van. When I called the next day I found out his father was flattened upon arriving home and four deputies had to jump on him before he tried to kill him for getting a court order place on him by a friend on the bench to work all hours offered until the order was recinded his mother said the scene was very bad. With people flying through the air and their luggafge thrown at his father with my husband yelling her was tired of his being in his life.

    Two years later We were waiting on the courthouse steps, His mother and father were there telling us how sorry they were that they had a very rude, son without patience to wait for what he wanted. He pulled up in a pickup that must have been bought in a junk yard. He came up the stairs Un showered, unshaved and still in work cloths and boots covered in metal chips, sweat oil and coolant It was already 94 that morning and the smell was terrible when he walked past and said lets get this rat killing over, It was 1989 and he still had not had a day off since the first of January 1981 By the end of court his petition was declared moot, He called the judge his fathers friend a presider of a kangaroo court that was in league with the KKK.. ( he was not wrong about that. He also said he had nothing but contempt for the lot of us as he slammed out. His father was saying he was sorry he had raised a son that had no manners I went through the front door of the horrible 12 x 50 he was living in and I was nearly hit in the face with a coffee cup as I entered. He was sleeping in the kitchen on a mat with no furniture and only a clock raidio with a window fan.

    My mother and I found a new home and got the things moved in and I started the next eleven years of being yelled at, cussed out when he demanded was I going to be a wife or get a job with my fancy degree. He was also causing trouble at work everything had to be forced. many times the court order to work all hours offered had to be enforced with a sheriffs escort Every three years the European vacatuing I came back to the words that I was a thief and a bi***. And In 200 our return was accompanied by feces in boxes and all over his fathers house with a large wagon wheel set up with rawhide straps in his fathers front yard with a sign that everyone could come and see the uppity ni***** get his whippin, I never saw his mother cry at anything until that day when she realized what her son thought of everyone> He was calling the whole area a bunch of bigoted S**s

    He also got something on his fathers friend on the bench and him and several friends from the military put a bug in the state judiciary review boards ear about impropriety in the judges positions. And an Investigation was started, HE was removed off the bench in cuffs. Mostly because he used the bench to keep the peace in the community. It might not have been fair to my husband and others but it did allow the smooth running of society.
    For the rest of us it turned into eight years of hell. ending on May the 28th 2009 with my shoulder dislocated, and his father nearly dead from his own son trying to strangle him to death over a danm orient express vacation. . He was so depressed never finding just a job was some thing he could find joy in. That his Immune system was destroyed allowing a MRSA abscess to set up in his spine that fall. He was in Rehab on January the first 2010 instead of ST crix where I was thinking he would be with me that winter for his first vacation since 1978. He came home in 2013 without nerve impulse below the tops of his legs. Within two weeks he ghad destroyed an old boyfriend I was saying my last goodby to. Then After he came home from the stress center two weeks after that I was going as a favor to his father as the fourth at a dinner event. It was just going to be out a little over four hours then home.

    HE came in the door after the center sent him by taxi. I was staring at somebody I don’t think is human any longer begging, pleading and crying to take a hundred I was holding out to him and pick a place to meet in four hours so everyone could have a say about what he was going to be allowed now, HE Took me to the floor and made me be the wife he had expected 28 years before. No mercy in my begging that this did not have to be this way.
    Please lets be civil about it and just talk through things from the last 31 years. He said He was done talking ten years before, now he was taking action. I got up bleeding slightly from his forcing his way in. I was hurting from my useless, I remember i was thinking why would somebody do this over no time off or sex All he had to do was sit and listen then tell us to drop dead not try and make me die inside. I was crying on the edge of the bed holding ther phone he gave me with instructions to call 911, don’t clean up and don’t pick up. Lets get everything into open court and see who left with his head high. All those words did was double my sobs.

    Then His fathers best friend demanded entrance to talk to me and my husband told him to beat it. When He said out of my way crip he left the porch screaming until he slammed face first into the drive face first in front of his father who was pulling in with his mother.

    He des not accept that people have the right to tell him he’s not inviited on a trip I am . her forces his way in now and controls the money with totality, any interference armed or unarmed just means if my husband is left standing others are left bleeding and broken. I am not going to ever risk being hurt again if I try to resist his bad maanerisms. But I also have to think ours were not any better towards him.

  2. After discovering my STBX’s secret life and realizing the lies upon lies upon lies he’d been feeding me, I found myself talking (more like yelling) to him in an unproductive, insulting, ugly, trashy way. There was name calling and rants. I went to a low level and said very hurtful, deameaning (but truthful) things to him that I never imagined would come out of my mouth. I did not like this ugly person I was becoming. It was not me. I did not know how to behave/react otherwise. I was so angry and realized how he had treated me like a POS, because as he was destroying himself he was taking me along with him. The life savings he blew – which will affect me the rest of my life – unless I have success in the courtroom.
    Since reading articles and comments from bloggers I have learned how to behave when being attacked by a CDN husband. It was a learning process, for sure, but now I think I’m back in a good place with my behavior.
    This article pertains to me in a way of how it is important to conduct myself civilly while being on the attack of a CDN. Really, the only way for me to be able to be civil is by email, using as few words as possible, to ignore, by not reading, most of his emails sent to me, and going No Contact as much as possible. No Contact is a life saver.
    Thanks again, Dr. Simon.

    1. After discovering my STBX’s secret life and realizing the lies upon lies upon lies he’d been feeding me, I found myself talking (more like yelling) to him in an unproductive, insulting, ugly, trashy way. There was name calling and rants. I went to a low level and said very hurtful, deameaning (but truthful) things to him that I never imagined would come out of my mouth. I did not like this ugly person I was becoming. It was not me. I did not know how to behave/react otherwise. I was so angry and realized how he had treated me like a POS,


      This is exactly how I felt when my girlfriend and the mother of my daughter first showed her true colours after seven year’s together.

      It felt like I was going mad I didn’t understand of what was going on exactly. And the swearing and all the ill talk from me ( though it was truthful) it realy turned me into someone I couldn’t recognise.
      Now I understand clearly that this is a spiritual thing, had it not been for the protection of God, I swear I would have ended up in jail or in the grave. And I’m greatful to the Lord for being with me through all of that even as my friends and family had turned against me and seeing her as the innocent one and me as the crazy maniac – Lol.

  3. Libraries: “the house of healing for the soul”.

    Bibliotherapy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibliotherapy
    “using books to aid people in solving the issues that they may be facing at a particular time”
    “The concept of the treatment is based on the human inclination to identify with others through their expressions in literature and art”

    a longer article on Bibliotherapy

  4. I had better give the reasons my husband was kept in the positions he was. He had been in another military service even before he turned 18. He had joined with his parents consent on something called a split enlistment. Much of this peri0od I had no idea of the things that were done to him I was still just going into sixth grade on the east coat at the time when her came back to the mid west to complete his high school first reporting to the armory where he was tad then to his high school for registration still in his dress greens. I have this whole narrative from several parties about second hand about what happened that fall. It took a family therapy doctor to drag the admittance of what happened out of him with one question and one word from him by the doctor. The question was is what the investigation that was conducted what happened 41 years before. my husband just said yes. and frankly what his mother and I were showed what his father and friends had done to him made both of us loose our breakfast into the trash can. When my husband came back from the Army after basic and the first part of his school in the army he arrived in time to go back to the football team too. He was with three other seniors several weeks latter when the coach told them that four sons of school board members were starting instead of them for political reasons. They went out to the scrimmage to make a point that they should be starting getting really rough with the four second years causing them to quit the team. his father and the boys fathers decided my husband was the ring leader. and also decided he needed to find out the place he was to be in. when he got home they surprised him by knocking him out with a golf driver as he stepped out of his car. when he woke up his father was demanding his apology for defying the four board members. I was told he spit at them and tried kicking his father telling them to go to hell he had earned his position. they used lamp cord to whip a 17 year old until he was passed out with his hands zip tied around the other side of a tree we were shown the scans of the polariods the military surgen took two days latter. How the whipping exposed his ribs and spine the 153 stiches on his back and the fifty per wrist were he cut deep trying to get loose. the report also indicated when he was airlifted to the hospital at wright pat he was suffering from massive blood loss. They had to give him almost four units. II had spent three decades agreeing with these monsters my husband require control for societys sake. and my abuse was just as bad. Tearing his self respect down.

    I thought for decades I was keeping him from tearing the heart out of society.

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