In a highly divided culture, one faith leader is reminding people of three key words and phrases that we need to use and embrace more than ever today, he told Fox News Digital.
“I think it’s time for a refresher course” in civility, said Mark Batteron, author of the new book, “Please Sorry Thanks: The Three Words That Change Everything” (Multnomah).
“I dedicated the book to my mom and dad, which is special for me — they’re the ones who taught me three magic words for living. You’ve got to be good at ‘please,’ ‘sorry’ and ‘thanks,’” he said in a phone interview with Fox News Digital.
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These can’t just be empty words, though, stressed the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C.
Instead, it’s the art and science behind them that counts. This is about making this “a lifestyle,” he said.
Pastor Mark Batterson of National Community Church. On Easter Sunday this year, his church is hosting the Easter Sunrise at the Lincoln Memorial faith event in Washington, D.C. (Pastor Mark Batterson)
“I’ve never written a book about anything that’s probably simpler than this,” added Pastor Batterson — “but it’s the art and science of these words that make this the most interesting.”
Batterson said, “We need a rising tide of ‘please,’ ‘sorry,’ and ‘thanks’ — which really means we need a rising tide of civility in today’s culture.”
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He said that people today “are not good at disagreeing. It seems as if everybody’s blaming everybody else for everything — and that’s just not going to get us where we need to go.”
“We need a rising tide of civility in today’s culture.”
He said, “I think any kind of workplace or culture where there are certain baselines of treating each other with respect and honor, and I would add, as the image of God — that that is really, really critical right now.”
So in a rushed and rapidly evolving society, how do people convey meaningful appreciation for others?
“Words create worlds,” said Batterson. “Our words have the power to bless or to curse — so this isn’t just about Emily Post politeness. This is about understanding how we see other people.”
Mark Batterson is lead pastor at National Community Church in Washington, D.C. Our words, he told Fox News Digital in an interview, “have to be expressions of how we see the person right in front of us. We have to make sure that we’re humanizing people more than we’re demonizing people.” (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
And “if I see them as the image of God — and that’s how I see people — then everyone is invaluable and irreplaceable. And that means I have to treat them with respect and honor.”
He said, “Words matter now more than ever … These words have to be expressions of how we see the person who is right in front of us. And we have to make sure that we’re humanizing people more than we’re demonizing people.”
“We’ve got to find a way to love despite our differences.”
In the book, he shares what he calls the four principles of peacemaking: “Listen well, ask anything, disagree freely and love regardless.”
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And “I’m not sure how good we are at any of these four,” he said, “but I do think we’ve got to find a way to love despite our differences.”
When “you actually treat people with genuine respect, it creates an atmosphere where people feel seen, heard and understood,” said Batterson.
Pastor Mark Batterson leads a prayer at the conclusion of a 21-day prayer vigil at Ebenzers Coffeehouse on January 2012 in Washington, D.C. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Right now, “there are a lot of factors that have led to the incivility or the tensions that we have felt across the culture — maybe these three words can get us closer to where we need to be.”
He also said, “We need a little bit of humility. And I reserve the right to get smarter later. Also, everyone’s fighting a battle that I know nothing about — so I want to empathize. I always want to see other people” with that understanding, he added.
We also need “a higher level of non-anxious curiosity toward each other,” he said.
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Today, we’re “very quick to write each other off. Instead, we should hear people’s stories — and can we love each other despite our differences.”
He added, “Jesus set a high standard. These are things we are called to do,” noting, too, that people need to honor others.
Batterson’s church, on Easter Sunday, is hosting the Easter Sunrise at the Lincoln Memorial faith event this year.
“We’ll have about 10,000 people who gather at the Lincoln Memorial,” he said.
“It’s a Washington tradition, going on its 43rd year.”
Now, read an exclusive excerpt from the new book, ‘Please Sorry Thanks,’ by Mark Batterson
Batterson: Jennie Jerome, Winston Churchill’s mother, once dined with two of Britain’s prime ministers on back-to-back evenings.
When asked her impression of each, she said of William Gladstone, “When I left the dining room after sitting next to Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England.”
After dining with Benjamin Disraeli?
“I left feeling that I was the cleverest woman.”
“What’s really impressive is someone who isn’t trying to impress anyone at all.”
William Gladstone was good at projecting his charismatic personality — and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. We naturally want to put our best foot forward.
Benjamin Disraeli was good at drawing water out of other people’s wells. He brought the best out of others.
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The difference? Gladstone was self-focused, while Disraeli was others-focused.
“Talk to people about themselves,” said Disraeli, “and they will listen for hours.”
Pastor Mark Batterson during a faith service. We need “a higher level of non-anxious curiosity toward each other,” he told Fox News Digital in an interview. (Pastor Mark Batterson)
My spiritual father, Dick Foth, says there are two kinds of people in the world. The first kind of person walks into a room and internally announces, “Here I am.” They are pretty impressed with themselves. Their ego barely fits through the door. It’s all about me, myself, and I.
The second kind of person? They walk into a room and internally announce, “There you are.” They check their ego at the door. It’s all about everyone else. Their objective is adding value.
Which one are you? Are you a “Here I am” person? Or are you a “There you are” person?
People who try to impress others are unimpressive. What’s really impressive is someone who isn’t trying to impress anyone at all.
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In the same vein, the most interesting people are those who take a genuine interest in others. They ask lots of questions and they follow up with, “Tell me more!”
The famous apologist Francis Schaeffer said, “If I have only an hour with someone, I will spend the first 55 minutes asking questions and finding out what is troubling their heart and mind, and then in the last five minutes I will share something of the truth.”
Schaeffer understood the virtue of listening. His wife, Edith, described him as having a ministry of conversation.
Did you know that Teddy Roosevelt read, on average, a book a day? And that was while serving as president.
How did he do it? For starters, he wasn’t watching TV or surfing social media.
There were far fewer distractions a century ago, but I don’t think he’d read any less if he were alive today.
Why? Roosevelt had a holy curiosity about all of God’s creation and reading was his way of researching. Roosevelt prepared for guests, prepared for conversations, by doing his homework.
“When you have a conversation, do you do more talking or listening?”
What if we approached relationships, approached conversations, that way? We’d talk about the weather a whole lot less.
Are you living at a conversational pace? And when you have a conversation, do you do more talking or listening?
I’ve had people fly across the country to spend an hour with me, and I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Trust me — I love hearing people’s stories. But I was left wondering why they wanted to talk to me. I guess they literally wanted to talk!
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Here’s a thought: God gave us two ears and one mouth — use them in that proportion.
What does that have to do with “please”?
“Please,” like listening, is others-focused.
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It’s asking for permission, which empowers the other party.
It puts them in the captain’s chair.
Excerpted from “Please, Sorry, Thanks,” Copyright © 2023 by Mark Batterson. Published by Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Mark Batterson is the New York Times-bestselling author of 23 books and lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. Excerpt is used by permission of the publisher.