DIS-RESPECT: The act of invading one’s dignity. Either our own or that of others.
RESPECT: The act of honoring the dignity of self and others.
(the above are not the dictionary's definitions)
The lack of respect, for self and others, as been in the forefront of my mind lately. Not that it’s more prevalent now than before. It has always been there. It’s probably my brain’s way of telling me that it’s time I made another shift.
So, after several weeks of this issue going around in my head, I sat down to write on the subject. I began by looking for a good description of the meaning of respect. The dictionary’s description just wasn’t satisfying - it left me wanting.... After not finding anything that suited me I sat down and used a technique that I often use in sessions with my clients I call “Wondering”. It’s a process where instead of using our logical mind to come up with an answer, we access our “sensing” and “emotional” mind instead.
As I began to focus on what it feels like to be treated with disrespect, the feeling that came to the fore was “invasion”. The next step in the Wondering process is to allow the brain to attach an image to the feeling. The image that quickly came to my mind's eye of "invasion" was what it might feel like to have hundreds of unwanted leeches attached to my body and attempting to suck the life out of me! As I laid there and pictured that scene in my minds eye; it began to give me an uneasy feeling. I could see and feel the slimy leaches attached to my flesh. Then - I got it! That's what it feels like when someone treats me with disrespect... they are invading my dignity just like those slimy leeches.
As I continued in the Wondering process, I reversed the scene and turned inward and asked myself: “Am I a Master** at showing respect to others?” I had to answer “No” to that question. While I do feel I function at the adult level of maturity in this area, I’m no Master. A Master would have deep respect and honor for themselves, their fellowman, for the universe and above all else the Creator of the Universe. It would come from deep within the core of his being. It would be such a part of him that it would come natural.
There are still times that I have to fight to hold my tongue when someone has “invaded my dignity”. When someone is purposely and knowingly disrespectful then we owe it to ourselves to preserve our dignity by speaking out in a respectful but firm manner or promptly removing ourselves from the situation. Unfortunately, it is the nature of imperfect humans to invade the dignity of others without even realizing what they have done. It could even happen many times in the course of a day. In the right situation, we can kindly and lovingly point it out to them. Once brought to an awareness of their actions, an individual functioning at the Adult** level will make a conscious effort not to repeat the mistake, and they would continue to practice it until the got to the Master** level.
In order to show respect to others we must first have it for ourselves. My father was a Master** when he died. He was a man of true class. When he was around I learned what respect and honor meant. But when he wasn’t around, others often invaded my dignity. So the slide-rule in my head to measure respect was constantly moving as I grew up. It has since stabilized and I understand the importance of not just showing respect to others, but the necessity of having it, and feeling it, deep within ourselves.
Funny thing about “showing” respect, even when we may not feel it is that it still has the ability to promote peace. Peace within ourselves because we know we did the right thing. When we honor someone else’s dignity by treating them with respect, that has a positive effect on who we are as a person, creating a permanent shift within ourselves if we do it often enough. If we wait until the “feeling” is there first, we may never do it. But if we can at least understand that it is necessary for the survival of humanity, then we are more willing to start practicing it in our daily lives, until we are no longer “practicing” it, but rather, it becomes who we are. Eventually we truly understand how honor and respect promotes peace in our environment, because we experience its effects.
So, where can we begin to show honor and respect? Why not start at home and at work? We interact with these people every day. So we have opportunity after opportunity to keep “practicing” it until we get it right. We must honor the differences and talents we all possess. Do not think that someone is inferior just because he is different. Respect the difference. Where we might be weak, our mate, friend or neighbor may be strong.
Look for the good in others. If we look for their flaws and mistakes we will surely find them! Treat others with the compassion you would want to be treated with yourself.
Learn how to voice the accepted everyday expressions of courtesy and consideration, such as “Thank you”, “Please”, “I’m sorry”, “Forgive me”, “Good Job”, and so on. These are little words with big meanings. Everyone can say them. They cost us nothing but give us much in return. Even if the other person does not notice, acknowledge or appreciate it, we feel better about ourselves because we had the strength and courage to be respectful even in challenging situations.
Lying and bending the truth, cruel teasing, making other people the butt of jokes, bossing or bullying, putting others down, pointing out their faults to others - these are not ways of treating others with honor. In fact, they undermine what respect others may have had for you more than the person you may be demining. Its been said that “rudeness is a weak man’s imitation of strength”.
When we treat others with respect and then see how they respond and notice how they are uplifted, we are uplifted as well. That can infuse us with the courage to go forward the next time and the next time, until we become a Master** at having honor and respect for others and the universe.
Remember: “We cannot harm others without harming ourselves in the process.”
(Originally written in 1999; revised in 2020)
**See the article "Levels of Maturity"