How to Cultivate Civility in the Modern Era

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How to Cultivate Civility in the Modern Era

No matter who we are, we have to be a part of society and interact with others. Civility, as it is defined in its Latin roots from “civilis,” means “of or proper to a citizen,” or a quiet or peaceable behavior and formal politeness. It’s about being able to function properly in a group.

In today’s episode, we will be looking into the role civility plays in society and how our understanding of civility has changed over time.

Modern Civility -- America Daily

Civility Prior to the Modern Era

A key element of civility was its ability to create a civil society that functions properly. People were taught to consider others first in all that they did. Men were expected to put women first in all of their labors. Women were taught to be caring and nurturing and to put the needs of others first in raising children and creating stability in society.

Marcus Aurelius: An Ancient Role Model of Civility

The only thing that isn’t worthless: to live this life out truthfully and rightly. And be patient with those who don’t. — Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius was an ancient Roman emperor who believed in the four pillars of Stoicism: wisdom, morality, courage, and moderation. A key tenet of Stoicism is to examine your behavior to make sure it conforms to reason as planned by the universe. Marcus Aurelius conformed himself to the principles of Stoicism and civility. It is said that he won the admiration of the Gods in an early campaign against a Germanic tribe to the north. As his army was surrounded, he knelt down and prayed. A lighting bolt came crashing down at that very moment, scaring the Quadi away and saving his army.

Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions — not outside. — Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius -- America Daily
“The Last Words of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius,” Eugène Delacroix, oil painting, 1844, The Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon. (Public Domain)

Ask: What is so unbearable about this situation? Why can’t you endure it? You will be embarrassed to answer. — Marcus Aurelius

Civility in the Modern Era

With so many changes in our modern culture, has the definition of civility changed? Much of what had the most meaning, like spirituality and beauty, is considered less meaningful now.

These days, civility is equated with being politically correct, which was Chairman Mao’s creation. To be politically correct, you have to adjust your language so as not to offend. It actually becomes a form of suppression.


The more a society is based on goodness, the more free it is. The more we put others first, look inward, and spend time on self-reflection, the less we rely on the state or a coercive force to ensure a stable society.

Press play at the top to hear the rest of our interview with Tim Gebhart. He shares some more great examples of past civility, how it has changed, and what we can do to have a more harmonious society.