While we all expect and agree on the teaching of the 3 “R’s” in our schooling systems, we also need to teach and encourage all adults in our societies the above 2 “R’s”. As this is a fairly complex subject matter, I will concentrate on the word “Respect” in this blog. That is, self-respect, and the respect for all others.
The definition of self-respect is not easy to pin down. Self-respect is even more difficult to explain to those who lack a measure of self-respect themselves. In fact, it is not that easy to explain in only a few words. One of my 10 dictionaries includes a definition thus: “a feeling that one is behaving with honor, dignity etc.”. I believe it is mainly about what you think about yourself, providing you are happy with the way you think and behave, and at the same time, it does influence your actions? What you believe others may think will often influence your thinking, even if your impressions are wrong. It is difficult to have self respect when you are more concerned about what others may think, than what you really think about yourself. Confidence is related, but it is not he same thing.
While most of us humans know what is right and wrong, many do not. Doing what you know to be the wrong thing damages your own image of yourself. Self respect requires that you are confident in knowing that your are on safe ground when communicating or taking action. Telling lies to big note yourself does not increase your self respect, it undermines it. You know in your heart of hearts that you are deliberately deceiving someone else, knowing damn well it is not true. Being honest, but at the same time being circumspect, will increase your sense of self respect.
Thinking about the old debate about “nature v nurture”, there is know doubt that the nurture part of that equation greatly affects ones ability to achieve a measure of self respect. A child needs to be treated in such a manner that it engenders sufficient knowledge and abilities to gain self respect. It is not something we are born with, although nature may make it easier for some than others. Because all children seem to have a healthy sense of what is “fair”, I believe that all parents need to ensure that they treat everyone in their life fairly, particularly their children. Self respect is difficult for a child to learn when their parents do not truly respect their child and are always putting them down, which will also adversely affects their self confidence.
Self respect is similar to the respect of others, in that you are just looking at yourself in the same manner you would look at others. Do you respect kindness, honesty, fairness, mental strength, resilience, evenhandedness, compassion, doggedness and the like in others? All these are qualities that will assist anyone in understanding what leads to true self respect. Do many of these apply to you?
Respect of others is a simpler concept to understand, although I believe that it is a commodity that is becoming rarer and rarer. My same dictionary defines respect, in edited form, as: consideration, esteem, regard, compliments, honor etc. I believe the most important of these are regard and consideration. Having regard to, and at the same time considering another person’s community standing, position, age, knowledge, health, family relationship, mental state and their general wellbeing, are all an essential part of giving respect to others. While manners are considered somewhat old fashioned these days, it is all a part of considering others. While holding a door open for an older person may not benefit them greatly, but it does mean that you acknowledge their very existence and their wellbeing. It is all a part of being respectful.
The school that I regularly visit as a volunteer in the classrooms (3 days a week) has a set of core values and objectives which are on posters all over the school. They are: Safe, Trustworthy, Active Learner, Respectful and Successful. Being respectful of others is one of them, and it is always a challenge to encourage young teenagers to respect others, whether it be their fellow students, or adult staff. Some, and I am afraid to say the minority, show respect for others regardless of the occasion. From an adults point of view, it is refreshing to see and hear true respect for others, and if the opportunity avails itself, I compliment them on the spot. Unfortunately, by the time a child reaches their teens, their sense of self respect and their understanding of respect for others, has been set.
One of the other values adopted by the school is Trustworthy. If one is trustworthy, they are also being respectful to those that have entrusted them. To deliberately let someone down on a promise, not only means you are now untrustworthy, you have also disrespected that other person. You have not considered how important that promise is to them, you have not considered what they may now have to do themselves, you have also not considered their mental state or wellbeing. In other words, you have only considered yourself. Respect for others can only be truly achieved if one thinks of the other person before yourself. Otherwise, it becomes the law of the jungle, where it is everyone for themselves. As I grow older, it appears to me that that jungle is getting closer and closer.
In my next blog I will cover the other essential part of the 2 “R’s”, that is, “Responsibility”. It is my contention that for us to achieve a successful and happy society we all need to have self respect, respect for others, and make responsible decisions and take responsibility for any subsequent actions. Do you believe that those around you follow the 2 “R’s”? Do you believe that the society you live in needs to improve its thinking and actions in this area? What do you believe needs to be done in this regard? Your thoughts and feedback would be much appreciated.