Choosing Civility, The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct

P. M. Forni 

book cover of Choosing Civility by P. M. Forni

P.M. Forni writes, “When we lessen the burden of living for those around us we are doing well; when we add to the misery of the world we are not…I propose that as a society, we take a new, close look at that intriguing code of behavior based on respect, restraint, and responsibility that we call civility.”

Choosing Civility does take a close look at civility: What is it? Why do we need it? What difference does it make? How does civility affect our relationships and personal well being? 

In Part I the author describes the underlying reasons for civility. In the chapter “How do we learn to love?,” he concludes the chapter with, “Manners are the first steps of the soul toward love.” Love with faith is the identifying sign of a disciple of Christ. How do we express love in our daily contact if not with civil, courteous behavior toward one another?

In Part II he lists and explains 25 rules of conduct.  One of the most often broken rules of civility I've observed at church is the one he calls “Be Inclusive.” “A lapse in civility can be anything but trivial when we look at it from the receiving end.” The Bible instructs us to respect all men and to be willing to associate with those society deems “of low degree.” How often in a church setting have we thoughtlessly, and sometimes, deliberately, made someone else feel unwelcome? I called it “circling the wagons.” A person, eager for fellowship, walks up to a group who are laughing and chatting. No one appears to notice and soon the newcomer drifts away--alone and lonely.

Another rule often broken is “Respect Others’ Opinions.” This occurs just as often when “witnessing” to someone outside the church as it does within. Forni observes, “Since what we believe is an integral part of who we are, we tend to perceive criticism directed at our opinions as rejection.” Keeping this in mind, civility requires us to respect others’ opinions which does not mean we must be untrue to our own. How many relationships have been destroyed by refusal to respect another's right to his or her own opinion?

Other rules deal with the use of the tongue: “Speak Kindly” and “Don't Speak Ill.” These chapters go into detail about the effect following these rules will have on relationships. A successful church is a church made up of people who are creating successful relationships. Forni writes from a secular point of view, but every rule he lists has a biblical counterpart.

In Part III he summarizes and reinforces his message. “…everyday life is made more pleasant, saner, and more healthful by the practice of the rules of civility that have withstood the test of time.”

P. M. Forni shows us how American society falls short and what American society does right--what works and what doesn't and why.

This is not a religious book, or a Christian book, but the values and principles are biblical: “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” (Titus 3:1-2) The qualities Paul recommends to Titus are descriptive of civil, courteous behavior. None of the 25 rules are against the law of God or Christian conduct. All teach us how to make considerate behavior relevant to our everyday life. Any Christian who follows these rules to any degree will be closer to the standard our Lord set for us. 


Book Review
By Scarlett Stough
Title: Choosing Civility, The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct
Author: P. M. Forni Copyright 2002
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10010
ISBN: 0-312-28118-8 (hc) 0-312-30250-9 (pbk)