What we say, how we say it, matters

Men argue outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington in this April 28, 2015, file photo. (CNS photo / Tyler Orsburn)

It doesn't seem right to laugh at so wise and solemn a statement as the 11th step of humility. It says that we must "speak gently and without laugher, seriously and with becoming modesty, briefly and reasonably, but without raising our voices, as it is written: 'The wise are known by few words.' " But honestly have you seen or heard much that's being said by important people these days — politicians in particular — that is "modest, brief, reasonable and modulated?" On the contrary.

Modesty has morphed into the kind of five-star narcissism never before heard in public discourse at anytime, anywhere.  

Brevity has become incessant repetition of lies, denials of lies, personal insults and threats. 

Rationality has become "What rationality?" and civility is obvious only in the past. 

In fact, the louder commentators and government officials can outshout the opposition, the better. That way, only the final votes on various issues count, not the arguments that purport to support or oppose them, so that in the end, the voters of the country never really know enough about the issues to confront it. 

There was a time when I thought that this step of humility was so obvious as to be an embarrassing crowning statement of one of the major documents of the ages, the sixth century Rule of Benedict. Then I listened to modern political speech a little longer, and realized that this step of humility may well be the most fundamental spiritual lesson of them all. Especially now.

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