Life was very different when I was growing up. You were taught that, as a sign of respect, all adults were referred to as Miss, Mrs. or Mr. So & So. This included your friends’ parents, teachers, the owner of the corner store, anyone who was an adult. We would have never dreamed of calling an adult by their first name. The same went for people with titles. A minister or other clergy was referred to by their title, as was any official such as a police officer, mayor or the President of the United States. You could disagree with any or all of them, but you showed respect for their positions by using their titles when talking or referring to them.
I recently had my thoughts go to how casual our manners have become and wondered if that doesn’t have something to do with the lack of respect that has grown like a virulent disease in this country (and perhaps other countries as well). It’s kind of “the chicken and the egg” quandary. I have no idea which caused which, but nevertheless, in over half a century we have gone from showing respect and honoring ourselves and each other, with these small acts of respect, to a place of anger and disrespect for others and ourselves. I have to ask, “Why?” What happened that caused us to make the turn down this road?
As a noun, the dictionary defines “respect” as:
1. Regard for and appreciate of worth; honor and esteem.
2. Demeanor or deportment indicating deference; courteous regard.
3. Expressions of consideration or esteem; compliments.
4. Conformity to duty or obligation; compliance or observance: as respect for the law.
There are five other meanings, but I chose these first four because they deal with where my mind has wandered. If you look at the keywords – honor, esteem, consideration, conformity, compliance – the question arises, “Have we lost these values?” If we have, why has that happened? If we haven’t, why does it seem like we have?
Most change is very good and very necessary. Without change we would become stagnant. I recognize that. At what point, for the sake of change, do we “throw the baby out with the bathwater”? It seems like somewhere, in our near past, we have done just that. Why?
I have always considered myself a non-conformist, someone who pushed the envelop as far as possible, a rule bender, but I never lost that respect for others, especially elders and those in positions of authority. I gave (and still give) what I hoped to someday have from others…respect. I honored their positions and who they were/are. When did we, as a people, stop doing that?
I went from puberty to young adulthood in the 60s, the time of the hippy movement with it’s free-love, drugs and psychedelic music. It was a time of searching for who you really were. In the desire to break the bonds of what was felt as traditions that held us imprisoned; in the quest for personal freedom, did we throw that proverbial baby out with the bathwater? Within the desire to spread love, was honor and respect abandoned along the roadside? Within the desire to make friends with the world, did we think that honor and respect were anathema to that?
(Shaking head side to side slowly) I don’t know the answer. Maybe I never will. What I do know is that things have gotten progressively worse to the point where very few respect themselves, let alone anyone else.
And why are so many of us so angry? Do we feel others don’t see our worth; don’t appreciate who we are; don’t pay attention to us? Is it a case of feeling abandoned by those in the outside world – parents, teachers, employers, friends, lovers? What is it that we want and are not receiving that makes us so angry?
It is here that my mind wanders to my childhood where my father was the “bread-winner” and my mother was always home – well, at least until I was in junior high school. In my early years, I was never a “latch-key” kid. In fact, in elementary school, I came home for lunch and mom was there with lunch ready!
As I said, it wasn’t until I was in junior high school, probably the 8th or 9th grade, that Mom took a job. Money got tight and she found a job at the local Kresge’s lunch counter. It’s this change in our household environments that has made me wonder if, as the generations have passed and the economy now makes it necessary for most households to have both parents working (or the household is a single-parent one and that parent has to work), that has made succeeding generations of children feel abandoned, unloved, lost? Has that childhood beginning caused us to carry anger with us? Has it cause a feeling of not being cared about, so that now, we no longer care about ourselves or others?
(Shakes head again.) I don’t know. I have more questions than answers. What I do know is that, whatever the cause is, both as individuals and as human beings, we need to find a way to heal ourselves, love ourselves, respect and honor ourselves, and then let all of that positive emotion flow outward to touch others. You see, others may have abandoned us, or at least made us feel that way, but now we have abandoned ourselves. In our search to have others acknowledge our existence and our worth, to honor and respect us, we have forgotten to honor, respect and acknowledge our own worth and existence. Without doing this for ourselves, we will never attain satisfaction from the acknowledgement of others, even if it should be offered to us.
Those powerful words: respect, esteem, honor, worth – all begin with “self”. It’s a pity we were taught that all approval comes from the outside because the truth of it is we must first approve of ourselves in order to receive the same from others. So, what do we do?
“Fake it until you make it.” is advice given when trying to change a habit in your life. This is no different, in my opinion. Find reasons every day to be grateful about your life. Find things about yourself you like and approve of and tell yourself about them – out loud – so you can hear them. It can be as simple as how good you look in a pair of your favorite jeans or how well you cook your morning eggs. Look for reasons to approve of yourself everywhere…dig deep…nothing is too minor to speak about. Then, take the show on the road and offer that same energy to others. You don’t have to become the King or Queen of flattery, but recognize, even if only to yourself, other people’s worth. Honor that. If the spirit moves you, tell them, if not, just recognize it for yourself and smile.
We stand at a vibrational crossroads – all of us. We have a choice: continue down the same road that has not brought us what we want in our lives or choose a different path that may require us to change ourselves and how we respond to life, thus bringing positive change to us and our world. The choice really IS an individual one. All I can offer you is one word: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It is a very magical word with great power to create change and offer hope to each of us and the world we live in.