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Miniblog #178: Learning Uncommon Decency as a Life Habit

by Carson T. Clark on February 14, 2013

A regular theme of this blog is advocating a kind of convicted civility that evidences a simultaneous commitment to truth and love, principle and graciousness. Richard Mouw calls it “uncommon decency.” A common response I get from people is that’s nearly impossible to do, or at least to maintain over the long-term. But as one who used to be a fundamentalist I’d like to challenge that popular assumption. My strong belief is that it’s a learned mindset and way of being. Trust me. I don’t claim to be a saint now, but there was a time when I excelled at being a jerk. What I’ve sinced learned is that uncommon decency is every bit as much of a life habit as is condescension, selfishnesss, self-righteousness, over-simplification, militancy, and the like. You can intention to interpret what people write and say in the most charitable way possible. You can practice self-criticism. You can work on refraining from ad hominem attacks. You can learn to ask clarifying or penetrating questions rather than immediately jumping to accusations. You can choose to avoid contentious rabbit trails by ignoring others’ unhelpful comments. None of these things are impossible. They just require intentionality. Over time those behaviors become habits and those habits conform your heart, mind, and spirit. As a Christian, yes, I absolutely think a lot of these things have to do with the work of the Holy Spirit. That certainly has been the case in my life. I’ve spent a good amount of time over the years repenting for my mistakes and fallen nature and asking God for wisdom. And what I’ve found is that God faithfully answered that prayer by changing my desires and putting people in my life who’d correct me. It hasn’t always been an easy road, but these days I can honestly say that uncommon decency actually comes pretty naturally now. It seems to me that should provide us all with a great deal of hope.

  • http://derekzrishmawy.com/ Derek Rishmawy

    Carson,
    I think one of your calls is to be a spiritual guide to the life of the mind. I like fostering a lot of the same traits, but it reaches a passion pitch with you. Just wanted to encourage you with that.

  • Charles Twombly

    Richard Mouw: indispensable book, irreplaceable man. Hope I’m wrong on the “irreplaceable” claim. Mouw performed a miracle for twenty years by filling David Allan Hubbard’s shoes as Fuller’s president. Now that he’s steppig down, who will take his place? The Fuller presidency has a tremendous impact on evangelicalism and the church generally; both Hubbard and Mouw embodied the “generous orthodoxy” implied by the title of Mouw’s book. Prayers for the search for the man or woman to take Mouw’s place.

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