Relationships are the central web of our lives. The strands connect us to family, intimates, partners, friends, as well as communities, natural places, and the wider world. The character and quality of our spiritual lives are measured by these essential bonds. Our relationship with the Divine is reflected by and expressed in our other relationships.
Strong relationships emerge from and support civility – respect, courtesy, consideration of others, politeness, good manners, basic kindness. All of the world's religions and wisdom traditions offer us models of civility that draw out the best in us as we relate to others.• Confucianism revolves around jen, translated as goodness, benevolence, and human-heartedness.
• Hinduism maps a devotional path and salutes bringing spirituality into everyday encounters.
• Judaism puts the accent on the pursuit of justice and the application of ethics to all one's affairs, both marks of civility.
• Christianity emphasizes civility practices such as loving your neighbor, peacemaking, nonviolent action, hospitality, and listening.
• Islam and its mystical expression in Sufism emphasize adab, a complex mix of courtesy, gentleness, reverence, and character refinement.
• Buddhism holds up compassion, taming the mind, and putting others first.
• The primal religions encourage respect for the natural world, silence, and connections with all living beings.
On this blog, I will explore the relevance of these civility practices to a major problem of our times: the self-centered, pushy, combative, and insensitive ego.
We confront it every day in our own impatient and non-attentive responses to difficult or irritable people. We see it manifest in the disrespectful behavior of others at home and at work, and in encounters with strangers, including those on the Internet. The pressures and speed of our lives seem to aggravate these feelings of anger, hatred, and hostility toward other human beings, animals, nature, and things.
Although these terrible and divisive forces may eat away at our relationships, the spiritual web can never be destroyed. With civility, courtesy, respect, and reverence, we can reweave it again and again.
I invite you to reflect with me on how we can cultivate a new reverence for life, an enhanced respect for differences and diversity, and good manners in everyday life.