Thursday, November 20, 2008

Always given, never earned

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.


  1. For me, respect brings with it a lesson in humility as well. I had a huge ego and no self-esteem when I came into alanon. I didn't know what true gratitude was and had difficulty with having personal relationships. Alanon has taught me that the one thing I need to hear can come from the one person I would judge so I need to be aware. I respect others as I have come to accept myself..flawed human that I am :-)


  2. So excellently stated. You must have been reading my mind this morning as I drove to work and witnessed a few things too that were less than respectful. What a comfort it is that God's love is not irrevocable. I love that~

  3. I like what Randy Pausch said

    about constructive critism. That when people stop, that means they have given up on you. Its a sign they care enough to let you know when you are off track.

    So yeah Wouldn't 'press my point to teach "respect".' But I would try to teach the other person what respect means to me in whatever way I can, and at the risk of rejection and criticism from them. Only out of a duty to help. Not because I think they 'ought' to be looking at it a specific way, but out of compassion for them having such a painful view of the world. If it is ill received. So be it. At least I tried.
    I genuinely feel sorry for those who are so uptight about the world, so yeah I find it irritating, but I try not to take it personally and do my lousy best to try and help them see it a better way.

  4. I was raised with the respect for others as well - it was as if my behavopr was reflective of my parents - how they brought us up rude or not. SO if and when I was not as respectful as they thought I should have been - I heard about it and felt their dissapointment. I like to think I raised my boys the same way - treat everyone - the way in whcih you would want to be treated. its a simply thing really.


  5. I was always brought up not to judge on heresay, its hard not to, you should judge p[eople for yourself.
    Respect everyone like u say syd unless there behaviour justifies otherwise

  6. You have my respect until it is no longer deserved and I hope that day never comes. That's what I go by with EVERYONE (or at least try to)

  7. We have a huge mall by us. On the week ends they should call it Disrespect World.
    Thank goodness that for the grace of Ebay & Amazon, I rarely go there anymore.

  8. What a great post. I am blown away by how people treat each other. I have to say that my skin is so thin these days that I have withdrawn. I cannot take anything from anyone now. It's kind of scaring me really. Thanks for your thoughtfulness always. jeNN

  9. I'm afraid that "lack of respect" is not the only thing I see in our culture today that disturbs me. Sometimes, the negatives I see could overwhelm me.

    It is then that I remember how powerless I am over what others do. All I can do is my part to make this world a decent place to live in. It feels like such an insignificant effort, but I know that all things are possible with the grace of God.

    I just keep on doing my part and praying.
    Prayer Girl

  10. I agree with you 110%. Very good post. Thanks!

  11. oh yes, respect is sadly missing in today's times, amongst children especially so. what to do, what to do. lead by example? that's the only thing i can think of when it comes to my child, but the greater world out there? i have no clue...

  12. Hi Syd, I had a real example of American respect whilst my wife and I were on holiday in Rome a few weeks ago. The AA meetings were full of Americans, most living in Rome but some visiting. On leaving the meeting at the end, we passed to Young American men in conversation. I said "Good Night Gentlemen" To which they both replied " Good Night Sir" I,ve never been called sir before and it made me feel as thow I and my wife were respected and we also respected those 2 young gentlemen. This would never happen in the UK. Of course after when I reflected on what had happened, it dawned on me that a) I was old enough to be called sir, and b) that I LOOKED OLD enough to be called sir. You're a wonderful set of guys. Take care now.

  13. Yes, it is like God's love. I know some people who live in the south (and of course they live in other areas too) who call themselves Christians but think being racist is fine.

    That's not very Christ-like in my book.

  14. Terrific post and good food for thought. My mother, her insanity and all, taught me the Golden Rule. And while she is awful at living by it (she and my father are two of the most corrosive, judgmental people you would ever meet, sniping about damn near everyone), I made it as much a part of me as I could. I know I do not do it perfectly, but I try. And I try to get my son to do the same thing, although being a 13 year old boy it can feel like an uphill battle.

    I do know I feel better as a person when I am not putting other people down. I think disrespect is bad for my own soul, nevermind how it soils society.

    Thank you for this post. I need to be more mindful of my respect for others.


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