Saturday, December 14, 2013

No Self-Respecting Person Would ...

Respect.  We talk about it. Aretha sings about it. Hopefully we all engage it in our daily lives.  How closely do we actually look at it, though?  It is a really deep and nebulous concept that I think we throw around a little too much so that we can judge and possibly control other's behaviors.

We want other people, especially young people, to show respect - for their elders, for authority, for the planet, for life - but we don't want them to do it blindly.  It's not truly respect if it is just a mimic of someone else's belief.  We want people to engage in their world, get to know the history of their elders, and understand the basis for a particular authority.  Then they can set that knowledge against their values and morals, and decide if they should respect them.

The flip side of the issue is self-respect.  Of course, everyone should respect themselves.  If they don't there is probably some sad or unfortunate history at the root of it.  Maybe it is just temporary, and they are having a moment of weakness, or a "learning opportunity."

Yes, there are things that are disrespectful.  If you deliberately try to hurt or insult someone; if you disregard their wishes or requests; if you don't care for yourself or are self-destructive, that would be an example of disrespect.

But, we are sometimes quick to judge - especially with young people.  If they don't talk in a way that we understand as polite, if they don't value the same kind of lifestyle that we value, or if they don't dress the way we would like them to dress, we say that they are being disrespectful, or that they aren't respecting themselves.  Maybe we are just too fixed in our own tastes and beliefs, or too impatient to try to understand where others are coming from.  We tell children not to judge a book by its cover, but then we tell them that they should dress in a respectable manner (i.e. how you are dressed shows whether or not you respect yourself, and whether or not you deserve respect).  When it is put like this, I, personally, can't support that.

With the issue of self-respect, in most cases, I think we really just have to ask the person.  All the conflict about how girls (and women) should dress seems a bit too skewed compared to other issues supposedly related to respect.  When I was a teen-ager and young woman, I wore hip hugging short shorts and halter tops because I thought it looked cool and I liked the styles.  I respected myself and my judgement, and I thought my parents were clueless and crazy for thinking that there was anything else behind it.  I was a thoughtful teen and I think my parents got a lot further with me when they engaged in discussions about big political, moral, or philosophical issues, than when they tried to talk about appearances.

It's hard being a parent, hell, it's hard being a grown-up, or any human who wants to be aware and engaged in the world.  The more we can step back and give people the benefit of the doubt, truly respect that they are acting from their own ideals, the more we can all learn and grow.   I think we would be happier too, if we looked at different choices and perspectives with a positive, and curious (respectful) attitude, rather than a judgmental one.

Part of respect, for me, is trust - that the person is behaving from a place of choice and positive intention; that the universe will give them a chance to explore and learn and benefit from whatever choices they make; and that they will learn to respect from having themselves been given trust and respect.


  1. Dear Sheila, You never cease to amaze me. You just gave a very thoughtful description of "respect. So now when I see the few teens that have purple or green hair I will try not to look askance at them or maybe just say Hi! Very good job Sheilas!

  2. Hi Sheila,
    You are a very insightful woman ------I am proud to be your Aunt---you give many things to consider before making a judgement of another person ----Scarlett Lewis, mother of Jesse Lewis, a child killed in the Sandy Hook School killings, wrote a book " Nurturing, Healing Love"
    to honor her slain 6 yr old son ---she wants everyone to replace hate, anger, condemnation, etc with love and respect for all ---what a wonderful world we could live in---thanks Sheila, Love you.

  3. Am not your grandma or aunt but will join with them acclaiming your well written piece, Sheila!

  4. Aww. thanks you guys. I am glad you liked it. Aunt Earline, the book sounds good.