People being civil to other people is what makes the world a whole lot better and is the key focus of National Civility Month, which is held in August each year. This holiday was founded to help the world remember to treat others the way we wish to be treated ourselves — with kindness, empathy, and respect. This month follows a common theme like other similar awareness months centered around civility, including National Win With Civility Month, International Civility Awareness Month, and more.
History of National Civility Month
The Latin root of civility originated in 509 B.C. with the Romans. Their social and political structure became more decentralized, and democracy took root in the then-powerhouses, Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. As people began to demand and receive more rights, they started devising words to describe their new republic. The term first meant ‘civis’ or ‘citizen,’ which referred to men with property. Over time, the word evolved to ‘civitas,’ a.k.a. the “rights and duties of citizenship,” and then to ‘civilitas,’ for the “art and science of citizenship.”
The current English word is derived from a French root — ‘civilité’ — but the meaning has changed again. It wasn’t about the republic and citizens’ rights anymore, it was now used mainly in the French courts to talk about proper behavior, dress, speech, service between the French lords and those who served them. The complete understanding and evolution of civility came during a major period of enlightenment spanning almost 300 years.
The Renaissance, the Age of Science, and the Age of Enlightenment broadened people’s definition of the term, and civility now meant the sense of being human and acting with humanity. Educated and civilized people were expected to exhibit traits of civility, like polished manners, a love and sensitivity towards beauty, respect for absolutely everyone, and a solid adherence to honor and duty. Historians conclude that our understanding of this word inspired many events, including presidential and parliamentary democracy and the women’s empowerment movements.
Today’s meaning of civility is etched in every person’s mind and is a common thread that unites our behavior. As we’re gaining a new understanding of ourselves and the environment around us, we are reaching out to people, sharing our love and care, and being civil to one another. And still have a long way to go to become a world mostly free of incivility, which is what National Civility Day addresses.
National Civility Month timeline
More and more movements crop up, inspired by a culture of demanding rights and civility for everyone — the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Bill of Rights.
The U.N. adopts the historical Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which defines the rights and freedoms all humans deserve.
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago states that 74% of Americans believe manners and behavior have declined in the U.S.
Reverend Dr. Sharon Styles- Anderson releases a book called “Emotional Civility: The New Standard for Global Success” about a concept she founded — 'emotional civility' — which she coined to help people understand that how we feel influences our interactions with others.
National Civility Month FAQs
What is the purpose of civility?
Civility helps diverse groups come together as a society and a group, reducing disputes and conflict to a great extent.
What are examples of civility?
Civil behavior involves aspects of kindness, empathy, respect, humility, and more. Practicing civil behavior means acting with humanity, whether you are helping someone cross the street, feeding the homeless, or even helping someone financially.
What does lack of civility mean?
Lack of civility, or incivility, is used to describe people acting against humanity and empathy by harming others through actions, words, or gestures. ‘Incivility’ comes from the Latin ‘incivilis,’ which means ‘not a citizen.’
How to Observe National Civility Month
Practice civility ourselves
True change begins with us. So, remember to maintain civility in all interactions with other people. Spend time reflecting on your actions, noting how people reacted to them, and figuring out how you can better yourself in this regard.
Influence others towards civility
Your civility can inspire others, too, like a ripple effect. Be the role model and the standard of decent human behavior, so others around you maintain the same levels of civility.
Raise awareness about civility together
Talk to people around you about the importance of this day. You could also drive change by encouraging various officials to hold special events on civility awareness and training this month (or year-long).
5 Celebrities Who Model Civil Behavior
Audrey Hepburn's UNICEF work
After retiring from movies, Hepburn worked for UNICEF and tirelessly raised money, visited various countries, and increased awareness about the foundation's work.
Elizabeth Taylor's AIDS cause
Losing her friend to AIDS impacted Taylor so much that she even started a foundation; buying anything licensed to Taylor even today puts money back to this foundation.
Laverne Cox and trans people
She used her star power to bring attention to the anti-trans laws, appealed to people to end violence against trans people, and pushed for trans cast members of the T.V. show “Pose” to get Emmy nominations — a first for any television series, ever.
Lebron James' response to hate crime
James took the opportunity, after a hate crime, to highlight racial injustice on his platform.
Taylor Swift's response to Kanye
Rapper Kanye West famously disagreed with Swift winning the ‘Best Female Video Award’ at the MTV VMAs in 2009; Swift kept her cool, publicly congratulated all winners, and repeated that she's always had a great career.
Why National Civility Month is Important
Civility is a fundamental trait
It is crucial to building a healthy society where each individual feels accepted and happy. Celebrating an entire month of civility awareness helps educate more people about this behavior and encourages us to behave in a manner befitting our society.
Incivility can destabilize the world
More and more reports of uncivil behavior are emerging from around the world. A world where people are at each other's throats cannot be suitable for communal harmony and development. So, this makes National Civility Month very crucial to deter incivility.
Civility strengthens society
Learning about civility through various awareness events and celebrations like these helps increase incidences of civil behavior in society, bringing the community towards a more positive and strong position.
National Civility Month dates