Maybe you saw the headline for this post and thought about the song by Aretha Franklin. I did too, after I figured out what today’s topic was to be. However, my thoughts aren’t about the song nor directly about Ms. Franklin. The idea today is about some of my thoughts regarding respect and the lack of it these days.
It has occurred to me that a great many of the problems we face in the United States and the world at large are a direct result of the lack of respect and self-respect.
“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.” -Fredrick Douglass
Respect for others is directly linked to respect for oneself. I don’t equate self-respect with egoism. Egoism is simply a manifestation of a deficit of self-respect. If our leaders and public personalities understood this simple fact, the level of public discourse would be different than it is now. They would see how transparent their insecurity really is to others.
It appears to me that a great many people in leadership positions have completely forgotten the lessons we all learned in grade school about respect. The list I was given as a schoolboy was something like this:
1. Don’t insult people, make fun of them, nor call them names.
2. Don’t bully or pick on other people.
3. Don’t judge others before you know them personally.
4. Listen to what other people have to say.
5. Practice courtesy and etiquette.
6. Treat others the same way you expect to be treated.
Not a single one of these points is mysterious, other-worldly, nor difficult. If a person simply experiments with one or two of these behaviors, positive changes will automatically happen. I maintain that if a person practices all of these behaviors that something beautiful and simple will manifest in ones life. The merging of self-respect and respect for others.
However, these practices must be performed sincerely. That is the only requirement.
Here’s a little mind game that I enjoy playing in my head sometimes. Think of a famous contemporary person. Maybe a politician, commentator, or religious figure who you don’t like. Apply the schoolboy list that I was taught to the person.
Does he or she follow any or all of the wisdom of those practices? Take a few moments now and do this.
Now, think of a famous person you greatly admire. He or she might also be a politician, commentator, or religious leader. Again, apply the schoolboy rules to that person, as objectively as possible. How does this person measure up? If you are truthful in your assessment, you will have learned some valuable things about yourself and about your level of self-respect and respect for other people.
Maybe you feel some discomfort about your discovery? I hope so. Your comfort zone has been breached. Can you see the strong disconnect between the behavior of what is expected of us as individuals and the behavior we find displayed in the public sphere?
Can you be with your own discomfort about this discovery for awhile? Look into it fairly. Can you find some things that need some personal work? Probably so, that’s completely normal. Do you think you can adjust some of your thinking and behavior that doesn’t fit the schoolboy list? Just give it some thought.
I’ve long wondered why there is such a gaping disparity between private and public expectations. My idealistic mind thinks that a person needs to develop oneself to the highest possible standards in order to aspire to a leadership position. A precious few have done this. The vast majority of leaders have not.
I see a major part of this problem as the manifestation of a lack of respect for the dignity of oneself and especially the dignity of other people.
If I could have just one of my big wishes granted, it would be that everybody could be taught and then remember to practice the list that I was generously given when I was a schoolboy. If we expect our kids to learn and follow these behaviors, why do we give those we openly admire, and ourselves, a waiver on these very virtues?
If we want to live happier, more joyful lives, can we remember to practice everything on the list?
The Blue Jay of Happiness has written the points down in his own handwriting and then posted the list on the fridge with a magnet.