True Civility

I’ve seen “telling the truth” used as an excuse for being rude for too long.

First, opinion is not fact. You may think my outfit is ugly. Someone else might find it adorable. I’ve heard it said that opinions are like backsides—everyone has one. Unless you are asked for your opinion you aren’t obligated to share it. And, often, you aren’t welcome to share it.

Second, even facts aren’t necessarily helpful. When someone has done something stupid, they’re probably aware that it was stupid. They probably remember that you told them not to do it. Yes, it might be true, but it’s not necessary for you to remind them.

I have something in my wallet that reminds me to check the things I’m saying to myself: Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it loving? I think we need to ask these questions before we open our mouths to criticize someone else, too.

True? Is it an actual fact, not an opinion?

Helpful? There are things we simply cannot change. There are things that cannot be changed without surgery or deep therapy. To point these things out in a negative way is cruel, not helpful. It’s kind of like my rule with pointing out something to someone in public. Things that can easily be remedied (i.e. spinach in teeth, tag sticking up) I will mention. Things that cannot (i.e. a run in their hose, a stain) I do not. It wouldn’t be helpful and would only make that person self-conscious for the rest of the day.

Loving? If you cannot offer the information in a way that builds up and encourages, Keep it to yourself.

Really, there’s a lot of talk lately about the lack of civility in politics. How about addressing the lack of civility in everyday life? How about teaching our children to say please and thank you? How about using those words ourselves when speaking to cashiers, servers, and such?

Telling the truth is important, but it’s not more important than other people’s feelings.

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