While its current definition implies courtesy and politeness, its roots go deeper:

Late Middle English: from Old French civilite, from Latin civilitas, from civilis ‘relating to citizens’. In early use the term denoted the state of being a citizen and hence good citizenship or orderly behavior. 

Oxford Languages

Civility isn’t a benefit of society, it’s the basis of society.

Civility has been sadly lacking lately, and there’s a level of animus inflaming online discourse that’s a little frightening to witness. I generally try to stay out of the fray; my interest lies not so much in proclaiming my beliefs (and therefore opening myself up to animosity), but more in trying to find a commonality in our shared human experiences. That being said, we’re all different in our approaches to life, to writing, to blogging, and that’s part of the wonderful diversity of humanity.

Anyone who puts their life online opens themselves up to critique and I accept that reality. It’s a price we must pay to inhabit this virtual space. Some people are not going to agree with what I say, or not like it. I would hope that anyone who visits this space feels free to express their disagreements, to have an open discourse. And if you just don’t like what I write, you’re totally under no obligation to read! No, really. Click away from this page! We’ve all got different tastes. I get it.

All that being said, I don’t really think “Suck it up, buttercup. Life goes on” is any way to start a conversation.

I’ve been a public figure long enough to know that there will always be haters – I’ve had some hurtful words thrown my way. And I know that, regardless of my intentions of kindness and openness, there will be those who don’t share my world view. It’s fine if you don’t. And, for the most part, I’ve learned not to take any of it personally.

So, reading the “buttercup” comment in response to a blog post (this was on a different social media platform, BTW) just made me sad. Not for me, but for the person who felt they needed to assert themselves through an act of hostility. Sad that strangers strive to anonymously hurt each other. Sad that a level of incivility has become the norm.

Please don’t take this post as a plea for sympathy – I’m a big girl. There are no hurt feelings. I’ve gone through more of this than I ever want to talk about. It’s just that I take these moments of unexpected meanness as a reminder of my responsibility, to my friends, my colleagues, my community – as a human – to do what I can to connect rather than divide, to show compassion in the face of antagonism. And I hope you do too.

4 thoughts on “Civility

  1. No imagino a quien pueda querer lastimar a tan legítima expresión de civilidad, como la que anima tus entradas en este blog. Habrá que apelar a esa vaga definición: “gente loca”
    Yo te veo con la batuta en ristre, sonriendo divertida con ciertos arreglos musicales novedosos como en For A Few Dollars More // The Danish National Symphony Orchestra, y concluyo que ese espíritu es intocable para las agresiones.


  2. Hi Sarah,
    I’ve noticed like probably many other persons that civilité or civisme lacks more and more in our current societies. I think that when you integrate civility in your daily life it makes you feel better and you help creating a better society.
    Your interesting post make me recall something. I had a patient about 13-15 years ago who gave coaching about good manners which include civility and other topics. She was from Paris but lived in Montréal for many years. She had stars among her clients. She never gave me any name but I think Céline was one of them. She told me that when you become a personality there are some rules.
    She also told me an interesting fact about the term madame. It was LaFayette who first introduced the word madame in the USA during the Independence war against the British. The term madame then became ma’am. In the French and American bourgeoisie it became dame (from the last part of madame). She gave me that example. In French when your daughter, son, niece, nephew,… opens the door to a woman in a shopping mall you would then say: “Laisse passer la dame en premier (Let the dame goes first)”. Dame became a classic still used nowadays. Saying dame is more likely seen as a ‘gallanterie’ or having class.
    That being said have a good super bowl night, you, Paul & Pinkerton. Dr Laurent Duvernay-Tardif won’t be part of the Kansas City Chiefs this year as a guard. He decided to remain in Montréal to help out since the beginning of the pandemic. I have to go to work now. Stay safe and healthy.
    n.b.: nice picture. I think it is the Japanese garden that Lois (the public librarian) was telling me about.


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