Embracing Authentic Civility in a Disconnected World

If you were asked to pick a word of the year, what would it be? Since 2004, the Oxford English Dictionary has selected a Word of the Year. They select one “that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.” This year (2023) they chose rizz, which is short for charisma.

Charisma: (noun) Pertaining to someone’s ability to attract another person through style, charm, or attractiveness.  Whether its personal or professional, wouldn’t we all like to have that?  Sounds fun!  But rizz is a quality that, while alluring, can be used for good or ill.  One is wise to be cautious around someone so described.

Oxford English Dictionary, Word of the Year 2023

Since 2003 Merriam-Webster Dictionary has also announced a “word of the year” at the end of each year.  These are the words that have been looked up more than any other.  They, as much as so many other things, are signs of the times.  This year’s word (in 2023) is authentic.

Authentic: (adjective) Not false or imitation; real, actual.

If people are longing for anything these days, it may be that which is real, which is authentic, which they know to be true and can depend on.

Years ago there was a common phrase: “Seeing is believing”.  If you saw something with your own eyes, you could believe that it was real.  And for a long time, that trust was applied also to that which we read.  Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.

Technology (among other things) has brought us to a place where it is sometimes next to impossible to know what is real and what is not, what is true and what is fabricated.  And the dangers of not knowing are enormous.  Because every day we make decisions both large and small based on what we believe to be true. 

So where do we begin?  As with most things, the best place to start is with ourselves.  The Institute seeks to call forth in each of us authentic civility – true empathy and a quest for understanding one another even amid our differences – whatever those differences may be.  Not a mere politeness to cover over awkward situations or to get us what we want, but a real recognition that each of us is a part of this thing we call the human community and that therefore, we all matter.

Authentic civility is not easy.  It calls for enormous commitment and energy.  It is so much easier to just ignore others, or avoid them altogether as best as one is able.  Life seems easier when we just stick with what we think we know and with what keeps us comfortable.  But that is a fool’s errand.  Because like it or not, we are all in this together.

Authentic and civil – something to be.  It matters.  For all of us. 

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