I overheard a couple of women talking the other day at lunch about the dress that Michelle Obama wore to the acceptance speech by her husband. They were making derogatory comments about it. And after lunch, as I was driving back to the meeting that I was attending, I saw a guy flip off an older woman who was too slow turning left at a stop light.
These things make me fantasize about doing a few things: 1) beating the crap out of the person giving the finger to the older woman; 2) asking the young women if they have ever been under the microscope of several million people and scrutinized for what they wear; 3) withdrawing from the world at large and revoking my participation in the human race.
It's wearying to see the lack of respect that occurs in our culture today. And in spite of the rude and unkind behavior of others, "respect" is a big issue worldwide. Everyone wants it, but there's a prevailing feeling that it has to be earned or gained in some way.
Maybe this whole thing about respect is bass-ackwards and "Respect is always given and never earned."
I was taught to respect people, all people, from childhood. And that respect was given and kept unless proven otherwise through the course of their actions. Respect wasn't required to be a test given to another with the risk of making a failing grade, nor was it something gauged to fulfill my wishes. Respect wasn't something that was meted out only if you were within my self-interested inner circle.
Instead, I was taught to respect another by default. The person on the street who is down and out deserves my personal respect as much as the businessman in an Armani suit. In Al-Anon meetings, I have as much respect for the newcomer who had the courage to come through the door as I do for the long-timer who has the benefit of years in the program.
I like to think that this innate respect is like God's love. It is always given to us and not earned. And unlike my human respect which is revocable, God doesn't take away his love for us. That helps me to see that I don't need to withdraw from humanity, pummel someone or press my point to teach "respect". I just need to keep on trying to do God's will.