What is “civility”?  According to Tomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke, Founders of the Institute for Civility in Government, it is “claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.”

In my book, Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities, I pointed out that by the very nature that we are these spiritual beings having this human experience, we all have certain rights –including those of both fully believing whatever we wish about life and its meaning and to be free to fully communicate those beliefs with others.  I also offered that we each have the responsibility to ensure that every one else can freely express their rights–including those same rights around holding beliefs and communicating them.

That sounds nice and all….but it is sometimes difficult when others hold different beliefs from us and we are emotionally charged around the subject.  In such times, we get so invested in getting our opinion heard that we disregard the rights of the other to hold and express theirs as well!  Expressing the rights and responsibilities I described in my book is a 2-way street….both parties need to be able to express what they believe and ensure that that the other does too.  Sounds like Spath and Dahnke’s definition of civility, eh?

The trick then becomes can we express our beliefs without trampling on the rights of others?  How can we make sure that everyone is honored in the discussion? That’s where the work of the Institute for Civility in Government can be a useful tool.  On their website, you can find articles around how we can enhance civil discourse in our political system, a low cost self paced training class around developing personal civility skills and information on how to support their work.  Their book, Reclaiming Civility in the Public Square – 10 Rules That Work , is a user-friendly guide to how civility in the governing process is possible.  You can check out a chapter on their website.

Danhke and Spath will be guests later this month on the Coffee Party USA’s monthly “book club” event on Blogtalkradio.  Details can be found here.

I encourage you to check out their book and their website and listen in on the discussion later this month.  But above all, I encourage you to seek ways to be a spiritual change agent who sees the greater picture and acts from their heart to bring more civility to our political debates and works to create a world that works for all.


Mark Gilbert


Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his very latest one Becoming a Spiritual Change Agent. Check it out!