“These days, trouble is, people just don’t respect the environment anymore.” This is what one woman said to another woman at the public library yesterday. I had been relaxing in one of the library’s upholstered chairs, leafing through a couple of magazines when I overheard the comment.
I smiled to myself about how ironic it seemed that she complained about a lack of respect for the environment, yet the woman had been lecturing her conversation partner loudly. She had not been respecting the social norm of being quiet in libraries. Since the loud talking was distracting, and in order to respect the women’s privacy, I relocated to a chair that was further away from them.
Later on, I began ruminating about my personal concept of respect. I can boil it down to a few sentences. I respect people for who they are. They don’t need to earn my respect. They earn my disrespect. Yet my disrespect still respects their humanity.
I didn’t always have this attitude nor did it come about as an epiphany. I learned it slowly in the “school of hard-knocks”. It was after I began to look beyond my little bubble, that I more fully realized that our world is very diverse. There are many variations of society and a plethora of sub-cultures. The fact is, that many sub-cultures simply do not get along with each other.
Furthermore, some of the older sub-cultures feel a strong sense of entitlement, in that they should receive respect by default even if they disrespect other sub-cultures. Members of the traditional sub-cultures are blind-sided because of belief in exclusivity and a lack of empathy towards others. They seem to have forgotten that in order to obtain respect, they need to show respect.
There seems to be a trend towards strong beliefs and a lack of understanding of the importance of moderation. The “middle way” has a lot of intrinsic value. In a nutshell, the middle way is not aggression and is not passivity; it is a balanced approach to life. In today’s world that is filled with political and religious extremism, it’s helpful to dial back emotional fervor. We can remember the old maxim, “everything in moderation”.
When one side pushes for its views to take dominance, the other side rightfully refuses to surrender to submission. If one side achieves extreme ends, backlash from the other side erupts. However, when moderation and mutual respect come into play, diplomacy, and more clear-headed thinking allow for discussion and better chances of achieving mutually beneficial solutions to problems. In my opinion, the key is mutual respect.
A popular, common reminder that we’ve all heard, is that to succeed in life it’s best to be a hard worker, be a kind person, and treat everybody with respect. I try to keep this advice in mind each day.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes writer, poet, aristocrat, journalist and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. “I have no right, by anything I do or say, to demean a human being in his own eyes. What matters is not what I think of him; it is what he thinks of himself. To undermine a man’s self-respect is a sin.”