Sunday, October 19, 2008
“Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners.”
“He that respects himself is safe from others; he wears a coat of mail that none can pierce.” ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
In high school I can remember having more freedom and less rules than some of my friends. I don’t think I can ever remember being grounded. I wasn’t a perfect kid by any means but I didn’t get in trouble because I didn’t break a lot of rules.
The first (and only) time I ever ditched school (being coached by an older girl), I got caught. The disappointment on my mom’s face was so much worse than having to stay home that Friday night. She trusted me and I let her down. Trust was broken and respect was lost.
Seems like a million years ago, but that lesson stayed with me. I need respect. Can't you just hear the words to Aretha Franklin's legendary song playing in your head? We all need to feel respected. Respect equates to value. We want our stock to be high, but to be worth much we have to be a proven commodity. Respect isn’t something that comes automatically or in an instant. It is gained over time.
That high school experience was not my last bad choice or the last time I lost the respect of someone I love. When that happens, trust may be regained over time, but the level of respect never seems to be the same. Knowing that we are less esteemed—and rightly so—by someone we care about is deeply painful.
There are different ways of being respected too. We can be respected for our beauty, our wealth, our family and our talents. While it is nice to be admired for those things, isn’t being truly respected for our character more meaningful? Merriam-Webster’s defines respect as, “high or special regard.” If I’m going to be “held in high regard” I’d much prefer it be because I have integrity than because I have nice legs or can write a large check.
When I meet people and assess them (as we all do) respect is not something I bestow lightly. I may enjoy or appreciate—even admire them pretty quickly, but respect it something that has to evolve and prove the test of time and consistency.
Is your character worthy of respect? Are you slow to anger and quick to forgive? Are you generous, kind, tolerant and selfless? Are those things a show for certain times and special people or are you like that when you can’t be seen by another human being as well?
How do you measure respect…in yourself and others?