Honor Each Other: A Call To Civility
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
People do not live alone. We form friendships. We form families. We form communities. Out of our friendships, families, and communities, we build societies. People have always done this, and likely always will. It is our nature, as essential to our being as breathing.
We Are All Human
When President John F. Kennedy addressed the graduates of American University in 1963, his speech included one of best and most timeless expressions of universal humanity: "...our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal."
We are human, and we must live among humans. We do not have a second alternative. We have no other place, no other world but this one. As we are human, we cannot avoid the company of humans.
We must live humans among humans, therefore we are well advised to excel at living with humans. Peace is always preferable to conflict, comity always more desirable than combat.
Peace is not easy, nor is it automatic. Where there are people, there are opinions, and where there are opinions, there will be disagreement. This is the order of things.
Yet, as President Kennedy so eloquently observed, despite our disagreements there are things we all share, things upon which we all agree: we all live on this good Earth; we all breathe the same air; we all cherish and pray for our children's future. No matter our differences, we are all human. This, too, is the order of things.
We will disagree on some things. We can agree on some things.
Peace Is A Balance
Peace among us therefore hinges on finding the balance of agreement and disagreement. Peace among us is something for which we must therefore strive, which we must seek out daily. Peace takes work. Peace requires effort. Peace requires choices, for how we disagree, when we should disagree, and whether that over which we disagree matters more than that over which we can agree, are choices we must make daily.
Peace is a choice, and therefore conflict is also a choice. Even when we disagree, we are never compelled to escalate disagreement into argument. We are not required to turn disagreement into conflict. We may choose to do so, and we might even feel justified to do so, but we are never required nor compelled to do so.
Peace is always desirable. Conflict is never inevitable. Both are the consequences of choice. At every turn, we reach for one or the other.
How then, do we reach for peace? How do we reach for peace in the midst of disagreement?
We Can Disagree And Still Have Peace
One choice that may allow for peace is to remain mindful of all that we have in common. Those with whom we disagree are themselves human, are themselves mortal, as are we. Even as we disagree with one another, we may still acknowledge our common humanity, our common community, the bonds of family and friendship that we all share. Even as we disagree, we can be gracious, we can be civil, we can be respectful of one another.
Even when we disagree, we can still celebrate such good things that we might do. We can still acknowledge the kindnesses shown us, and we can reciprocate with kindness. We do not compromise principles by being polite. We are not craven merely because we are courteous.
A disagreement on one thing does not alter in any way agreement on any other thing. Counting one act as evil does not preclude other acts from being good. Condemning one act for its evil does not prevent us from celebrating other acts for their good. One evil act need not sever whatever bonds of friendship, of family, of community that we might share. All evil acts combined do not strip any of us of our common humanity, that one thread that truly unites us all.
We Are All Human. We Can All Be Humane.
As we are all human, we can always honor our humanity. As we are all human, we can always celebrate that one common link. We can pray for each other's children, and we can mourn each other's mortality. Despite all disagreement, we can yet choose this much in the name of peace.
Therefore, let us always strive to come together, seeking out common fellowship, as people inhabiting this small planet, breathing the same air, cherishing our children's future. Let us come together with love and understanding, seeking to elevate each other and not tear one another down. Let us pay each other our due respects, giving space to each other's ideas, credence to one another's beliefs. Let us not compromise who we are, but let us celebrate all that we are.
Let us honor each other, that we may have peace, find prosperity, and build for our children a future.