Having respect means being tolerant of all people and their various behaviors and lifestyles with which we may not always agree. Respect means having an understanding of the way other people go about their lives, and not harshly judging their beliefs and world views. Respect means being compassionate towards all those who have known struggle and grief. Respect means treating our teachers, elders, friends, family, and opponents, with dignity.
Now why should we show respect to others whom we may dislike, or whom we may not understand? The answer is simple: It’s the right thing to do. Part of being a well-adjusted adult is learning how to relate in a peaceful manner with those with whom we disagree. And if we show other people respect, we are teaching them how to then respond in turn.
A dilemma we face today, is that many people are showing a lack of respect towards those who are different. There is bullying, name-calling, fear-mongering and ostracism. These heinous acts of cruelty and prejudice are fueled by xenophobia, which has often been passed down through generations. At the root of it, there is great misunderstanding, ignorance, and latent hatred. These people let fear and rage cloud their judgment. They antagonize and criticize the people by whom they are intimidated.
To remedy this situation, we need to find common ground. In politics, the Democrats and the Republicans are two sides of the same coin. Both are on the side of freedom and justice – although each comes from opposite positions and has its own distinct and differing ideas. Still, they both share the same coin – that of patriotism. And so, each should respect the other’s right to express its own opinions. In the case of religious disputes, for example, between Christians and Muslims, though sometimes there is great animosity, the common ground is a firm faith in God.
We need to look within ourselves to find our greatest common ground: that we are all human beings. We need to put aside our differences, and instead, recognize our similarities. We all breathe the same air. We all bleed the same blood. We all feel love, joy, and sadness. We are all in this together. In these times, now, more than ever, we truly need to promote respect and acceptance.
Respect is a vital part of life. It helps to keep people in harmony, thus creating a peaceful, compassionate and accepting society. It helps us to make connections to people from other cultures, to expand our understanding and our field of view. Respect is treating people, even those with whom we disagree profoundly, with tolerance and decorum. In the words of inspirational speaker, Steve Maraboli, “How would your life be different if you stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day you look for the good in everyone you meet, and respect their journey.”
Photo Credit: Respect by Chris Campbell on Flickr; used under Creative Commons License.