Respect has been on my mind a lot lately.
On a personal level, I’ve had cause to respect the efforts of someone close to me, their reaching out with an olive branch, offering peace and a positive future. Also personal, I’ve been scuba diving again, something I do to enhance my self-respect (through effort, learning and courage) and appreciation of the natural world. The reward on a recent trip was to be surrounded by inquisitive and playful seals and inspected by grey nurse sharks, both creatures I have utter respect for and who seemed to respect me.
On a broader level, I have felt respect for the forces of nature, the altruistic actions of those who help despite cost to themselves, those who take a stand when rights are threatened, and for a leader on the opposite side of the world who has remained strong and calm and forceful despite the horrors of war.
So, what is respect?
For the purpose of this blog post, the relevant meaning is a sense of the worth of something: a person, a living thing, a place, an institution, a culture, an inanimate thing.
It is due regard for people’s feelings, wishes, or rights.
It is a recognition of value in someone or something and a demonstration of that.
Of foremost importance is respect for ourselves. We need to care for our own wellbeing, value our own worth, and appreciate our own thoughts and inclinations before expecting respect from others. How can we expect others to value us if we don’t value ourselves? How would we know when we were being disrespected? How would we even know what to respect in others if we didn’t understand and value our own minds, if we didn’t respect our own actions?
Having self-respect guides our morals and gives us strength, enabling us to respect others thoughtfully. Equally, it enables us to remove ourselves when there is no respect coming our way.
Respect is a primary foundation for our physical and mental health, the health of our relationships, and the health of our planet. Without respect, people become destroyers of themselves, others, their relationships, and the environment.
It is good practice to show respect first, to assume other people and places are worthy, and of value. Doing no harm, being polite, actively listening, and being helpful are all good ways to show respect.
I believe respect is imperative in any loving relationship. Feeling and showing respect for a partner, a friend, a child or parent, and requiring respect in return, makes for a healthy relationship.
Once respect is lost in a relationship, unless it can be rebuilt, it is doomed. If someone’s attitudes or actions cause us to think they are unworthy of our regard, the relationship is no longer viable.
I believe respect for the natural world is imperative in saving the planet. Our lack of regard for it has damaged it severely. Learning about it, treating it as important, understanding how we fit within it, immersing ourselves in it, getting our feet wet and our hands dirty, and therefore discovering its worth, is the only way to salvage it.
Finally, showing respect for things we don’t fully understand, for the differences between people, cultures and attitudes, for each other as a general rule and not just on special days, will surely help us get along better, repair what we have broken, and enhance our enjoyment of the world.
I’d like to suggest we keep RESPECT forefront of our minds.
How would that feel for you?
‘Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you or makes you happy.’ Robert Tew (American writer)
‘There is no respect for others without humility in one’s self.’ Henri Frederic Amiel (Swiss writer and philosopher)
‘If you have some respect for people as they are, you can be more effective in helping them to become better than they are.’ John W. Gardner (American novelist and poet)
‘You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.’ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German writer, scientist and statesman)