There has been a lot said in recent years about the loss of courtesy in our society today but I would argue that it’s not courtesy that has been lost but respect. Respect for each other, respect for “rules,” and respect for authority figures such as parents or the elderly who are in our lives. With the loss of respect comes the loss of courtesy.
The loss of respect for others is evident in the way we have become divided by race, age, income, and beliefs. On Twitter, for example, the biggest battles come from one person disagreeing with another. It’s starts with a disagreement but often ends with name calling that belittles or shows deep hatred for people who have never met each other in person.
Then there is the vast group-think of those who glom onto the argument, who don’t respect the humanity of the person they may disagree with, or even recognize that he or she is– more importantly– made in God’s image.
As someone who is pro-life and who works in the movement, I have to walk a fine line of of criticizing those I disagree without making them sound less than human or evil incarnate.
Misguided? Yes. Ignorant of the truth? Possibly. Willfully blind to the truth? Probably. Evil? No. Less than human? No.
They, too, are created in the image of God and have the same right to life. A person can always change their mind and come to faith–today, tomorrow, next week, or next year.
If they are alive, they can change.
Courtesy and respect will return when people once again recognize that those they disagree with are human beings and not somehow less than human.
As the poet John Donne wrote:
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.