A Return to Civility
Marti Wibbels, MS, LMHC
The Bible says, Be kind to one another tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32, ESV). 1 Thessalonians 5:15 explains: See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
In this challenging “season” of covid, political unrest, and discontent, how can we always do good? 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 says, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. It’s a choice to live as the Spirit desires. And, living in God’s design can free us from all sorts of things, from bitterness, frustration, continually being offended and hurt, to living in worry, fear, helplessness, or insecurity.
Galatians 5:19-21 (TPT) provides a clear method to identify when we’re not walking in God’s design: The cravings of the self-life are obvious: Sexual immorality, lustful thoughts, pornography, chasing after things instead of God, manipulating others, hatred of those who get in your way, senseless arguments, resentment when others are favored, temper tantrums, angry quarrels, only thinking of yourself, being in love with your own opinions, being envious of the blessings of others, murder, uncontrolled addictions, wild parties, and all other similar behavior.
Whenever we allow our flesh to direct our lives instead of living in the Holy Spirit’s loving power, we’ll exhibit some aspect of Galatians 5:19-21. To move beyond jealousy, senseless arguments, hatred, etc., we can allow the Holy Spirit to control and empower our lives. Like breathing, this choice needs to be repeated any time we go back to the cruel dominance of our flesh. Galatians 5:22-23 (TPT) describes how the Holy Spirit transforms us when we yield to God’s gracious control: But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of the spirit.
Drs. John and Julie Gottman talk about replacing conflict with kindness by recognizing the relational Four Horsemen and using antidotes to stop their destructive power.
- The first Horseman is Criticism, and its antidote is a Gentle Start Up. Instead of being critical and negative, we can state our concerns with kindness, asking for the other person’s help rather than condemning his or her words or actions.
- The second deadly horseman is Defensiveness, and its antidote is Taking Responsibility. Listen to each other’s concerns. Take responsibility for your words and actions rather than trying to prove you’re right.
- The deadliest horseman is Contempt (treating another person as “less than”); its antidote is Building a Culture of Appreciation. We can choose to look for positive qualities in one another.
- Stonewalling (ignoring others, refusing to talk) can be avoided when each person practices Physiological Self-Soothing. To learn how to do this, you can go to www.pbcounseling.com, click on the Resources link, and read the “Managing Anxiety” article, which includes specific grounding exercises to help manage emotional dysregulation.
We’ll return to civility—doing good to one another and treating each other with kindness—when we yield our lives to the loving control of the One who is LOVE.
For practical application, you can work through Core Healing from Trauma, a biblical counseling workbook for individuals or groups, available on Amazon. To reduce the impact of trauma, you can also watch Strengthening Your Core, my 12 - video series on YouTube.