How would you define success? For most, success has something to do with wealth, stuff you accumulate, or fame. Yet, there are different types of success. You can be a wealthy owner of a company, or a wealthy distributer of illegal drugs. You can be a famous movie star or a famous bank robber.
When I was in high school, almost everybody’s parents were pushing their kids to go to college. I don’t think anyone asked, “Why?” If they did, the likely answer was, “to make more money.” Implying that money is what life is all about. I don’t think anyone could conceive of this question: “Why? Why is making money the goal of life—or the reason to go to college?”
In my book, Restoring Civility, I have noted that success is usually about “What I have done for myself?” On the other hand, significance focuses on “What have I done for others? However, there is more: movement is “What have I done that is sustainable and expandable?” Finally, legacy is “What have I done that lives on in perpetuity?”
The elements of civility are: love, respect, humility, honor, selflessness, servanthood, grace, kindness, goodness, and acceptance. Being a polite, respectful person goes beyond success. It moves you into the realm of significance where you impact others for their benefit.
My hope, prayer, and desire—and the reason I wrote the book—is movement. Civility can’t be a passing, insignificant fad. To make a real difference in society, it must become sustainable and expandable. That is easier said than done.
A movement for respect makes traction one person at a time. It changes the climate, one degree at a time. It can’t be a top-down program. A movement is bottom-up in direction.
It’s great to be successful, but don’t stop there. Restoring respect in a nation has no downside—except for criminals who have a basic worldview challenge. Respect given is respect earned. But respect earned can be multiplied. It rubs off on other people.
When you go to a restaurant and, as you walk in the front door, what do you do when you sense another person is entering right behind you? You have three choices: 1) go in, ahead of them; 2) push the door so far, so they can “catch it” and enter also, or 3) hold the door open and let that person behind you go first. And, then there is a fourth “add on.” You say to the person, as they walk ahead of you, “Good morning. How are you today?”
How would you rate those options on the civility scale? Is that your usual approach? IF not, do you even think about it? Could you make that your approach? Does that impact the other person in a positive way? Would that behavior, perhaps, rub off on the other person? If it did and they started practicing it, would their behavior likely rub off on other people, who you would likely never meet?
This is an example of the apple tree movement. It takes one apple seed to grow an apple tree. Like most movements, the beginning takes time. The apple tree must grow and mature. However, once it does, the tree produces numerous apples—every year! Many of the seeds from these apples—perhaps thousands—lay on the ground and eventually, other apple trees grow to produce more apples, with more seeds. This is the power of God’s creation.
If you value life, invest yourself in efforts that multiply and outlive you. You can make a difference. Real significance in life always occurs when you make a difference in people.
Do you ever pray? Whether it’s part of your lifestyle or not, do it anyway. Pray: “God, give me the vision, the wisdom, the culture to be a force for a more respectful world.” If God answers your prayer, and you are wise enough to listen, be prepared to become a person you never dreamed you could be.
I know, it sounds too simple. But God changes this world one person at a time. Plant seeds of civility and change your world, one person at a time.