The Peaceable Kingdom, about 1833
Oil on canvas
Last night our family attended the Rockhurst University student mass at Saint Francis. It had been a long weekend (our beloved MU Tigers lost), the weather was freezing and our kids were tired and crabby. Great mood to have as you enter into mass! But something unexpectedly happened to me...
Ever have one of those moments when you feel as though your priest (or pastor) is speaking specifically to you. It's almost like you want to blurt out "you talkin' to me" (insert de Niro's famous quote in front of his mirror), but with a more positive, less New York accent. During the homily, Father Curran creatively brought out the print of Edward Hick's The Peaceable Kingdom. Since he knew we couldn't all see him holding the framed piece of art, he encouraged the congregation to Google it in church right then. We all had the opportunity to personally view the image on our smartphones (how 21st century is that!) as we reflected on what we saw.
As we observed the images expressed in the picture, he discussed the different characters in the artwork and what they represented. Growing up Baptist and attending a Baptist school 1st-8th, I have read the Bible about twenty different times and there are certainly scriptures I vividly remember. The scripture of Isaiah came back to mind:
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
together their young shall lie down;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the viper’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
The summary of his homily brings to light the notion of: we can all live together. It's through civility and the Platinum rule (as we like to call it at RU): " Treat others as THEY want to be treated" vs the Golden rule, "Treat others as you want to be treated." We cannot assume that others want to be treated as we want to be treated and vice versa. We all have different backgrounds, experiences and tolerance levels for diverse situations. This is an area I have struggled with the older I get. I have always tried to please others and confrontation is not my cup of tea. Rather than sometimes voice my opinion, I seek clever ways to tactfully get my subtle point across and move on.
This issue is a constant discussion in my Educational Technology courses. My graduate and undergraduate students, who are pre-service teachers, are concerned about civility and technology, pertaining to numerous scenarios. Can you be civilized, professional and Christian as you stand up for yourself in today's technological world?
We live in a digital society where it is incredibly easy to be UNcivilized with our quick responses to text messages, emails, social media, blogs and articles. It's very easy to hide behind a fictitious name and write whatever we want with no real accountability. People don't see physical expressions when you type out your response and hit "send" or "post". One family psychologist hit it right on, "Technology has changed the rules of social engagement". Last year, I attended a breakfast promoting civility practices in Kansas City through ConsensusKC. Several politicians and local businesses stood up and spoke about their efforts to promote civility in Kansas City.
A recent effort has been raising local and national attention. As of December 5th, those who wish to comment on Kansas City Star's website, must log in with their Facebook account and this is why:
"For the record, we appreciate and encourage commenting on our stories. We want a thorough discourse on important issues and topics across the board. We find interesting context and useful tips in the comments sections.
Most of our users behave thoughtfully. But a few nameless, faceless readers are poisoning the well for everyone.
At this point, it seems to be the best model going, and lots of news organizations around the country are deploying it. So far, we’ve heard positive feedback on how it’s working in many of those markets.
We believe all of this leads to a better, richer conversation. Thanks for reading."
In regards to my students, we have a few behaviors we commit to abide by as we discuss them in my class.
1. Receive a heated email or phone call from a parent or student: give yourself at least 24 hours to respond. If you decide to respond prior to then, confirm you received their email and let them know you will get back with either through setting up a meeting or through an email once you have had time to think through the issue.
2. If someone posts a negative post on your social media site (blog, Facebook, Instagram...) you can delete it or respond in a dignified way. Appropriate humor seems to get a point across or a classy short, straightforward comment.
3. We all have various opinions about a variety of topics, when faced with a debate or heated situation, you need to decide: is this professional or personal. If it is professional, perhaps take the high road and find a way to resolve it. If it's personal, remember the definition of civility:
Civility is claiming and caring for one's identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else's in the process.
We can all benefit from thinking about it this way: Next time you come into a situation when you feel you need to voice your opinion loud and clear, especially through one way communication via technology; you might want to FIRST practice in front of the mirror, or at least take a look at yourself in one.
'Tis the season to be jolly...let's try harder to be civil to one another and live together in peace.