The six pillars of civility are the building blocks of decent human behavior. More than ever before, we need a road map to civility. So many people seem lost and overwhelmed. Fortunately, there is an appetite for returning to a society where we treat each other with respect and courtesy. How did we devolve to the divisive, unjust, and fearful state that too many now endure? After all, life has been pretty good for most of us, especially compared with the suffering of so many people worldwide. Yet, we seem to have slipped into an abyss where we have lost our shared humanity.
Fortunately, thanks to a handful of curious scientists, we are beginning to understand how our brains function, which allows us to realize that our behaviors are primarily grounded in keeping us alive, not making us happy. We now know that trauma, especially childhood trauma, influences how we respond and behave throughout our lives. We are also learning how to heal from our traumas and live the fulfilling lives we deserve. Unfortunately, the professional assistance we need to help us heal is woefully inadequate, so we are on our own to try to patch our lives back together as best we can.
I wrote this book to understand better how the six pillars of civility—awareness, compassion, humility, gratitude, compassion, encouragement, and responsibility—resonate with us and how we can more easily incorporate them into our daily lives.
These short essays offer a glimpse into my personal experience in regaining balance in my own life. I am fortunate to have had many guides along the way who shared their life experiences with me as illustrations of their healing process. Others served as professional counselors and mentors. Without their presence and steadfast determination, I would be unable to write this. You, too, must uncover and heal from your traumas. Ideally, this book will illuminate some new perspectives on how to be- have and focus your attention as you follow your path.
Although these essays may not teach specific skills, they can help raise civility to a level where we treat others with respect as equals. We should all recognize fundamental human rights. In the United States and Canada, most of us have been denied these rights because of the power and control model of governance we have regrettably elected. It's our responsibility as citizens to elect more responsive governments that will enable us to live in a more inclusive, respectful, and decent world.
In the context of this book, I define civility as how people interact with one another with mutual respect and kindness both publicly and in their private interactions. Civility is the umbrella under which etiquette and decorum rest. Because overwhelming incivility surrounds us, I offer a positive perspective on how to regain civility, often by employing the self-reflective exercises that follow each chapter.
The words I chose to identify different aspects of civility came to me through self-reflection, meditation, and discussions with peers. In the years of answering thousands of questions about etiquette and human dynamics, I haven't found any question that doesn't fall within one or more of these aspects.
Because this is not an attempt to discuss the topic with scholarly references and anecdotes beyond my own life experience, this pick-up, put-down book can provide anyone looking for answers to a variety of life's challenges and opportunity for inward, quiet reflection.