Today I read about an American couple who were under fire for posting photos of their neighbors’ six-year-old daughter—who is battling Huntington’s Disease—and commenting on how they couldn’t wait for her to die. They also dragged a coffin from their truck in front of the neighbors’ home. How sick is that? Obviously the outcry has been enormous, but it leaves me with a disgusted feeling over just how low some people can go, and just how much our society needs a return to civility.
One of the tenets of the civility movement is “Don’t Speak Ill of People.” It seems like trash-talking is running rampant these days. A gubernatorial candidate bashes gays in his speeches; an acquaintance takes to Facebook to moan about her annoying in-laws or backstabbing friends; people gossip and snicker behind each other’s backs. Enough!
It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to like everyone else. But does that mean we have to unleash our disdain out into the world? Sure, you may get a little kick out of making fun of a co-worker or client during after-work martinis with your friends, but does it really solve anything? No. Instead, it makes you look petty and mean—and just think of the repercussions if someone overheard you and reported you. Others will wonder if you talk about them behind their backs. They will lose trust in you. Your image would take a hit.
Sometimes we forget that we’re not in high school anymore. It’s not cool to act like bullies or take our private disputes into the public domain. How would you feel if you found out someone was making fun of you? It would hurt your feelings, right? So why does it make it okay to gossip and complain about others, even if we don’t know them? It’s easy to put down someone who looks weird, or diss a boss who is overly demanding. It’s hard to be the bigger person and show some class by biting your tongue and avoiding the urge to mock. But, hey, nobody said being a great person didn’t take a little effort!