Civility isn’t surrender

But humility shouldn’t be paralyzing. A person should still advocate for his or her ideas with conviction. Individual liberty and the sanctity of life, for example, are ideas worth fighting for. We can agree and acknowledge that an opponent might be brilliant and well-meaning (sometimes they’re neither, obviously), but they are still wrong. They still must be opposed.

A person of conviction is relentless in the advancement of their ideas, flexible in the way they advance those ideas, and undeterred by threats, mockery, or scorn. A person of conviction listens to critiques but understands that there is a fundamental difference between “Your idea hurt my feelings” and “You insulted me” or “You lied about me.” Expect the former. Be concerned about the latter.

Finally, it’s vital to maintain a sense of proportion. Not everything is an emergency. Not everything is infuriating. I often remember the wise words of a retired federal judge who once told me, “Even when you’re angry, endeavor to speak with regret, not outrage.” In an angry age, thoughtful concern can cut through the noise.