When respect is paramount

Have you ever lost respect for someone? And can we get it back? Ever?

We were taught by our parents to respect adults — teachers, our elders, people in certain positions, members of the clergy, nuns, people in authority, policemen, etc. The list goes on and on. But does respect still come to us automatically as we were taught, or as adults are there other factors we consider?

There may be the issue of profession. I have noted that some individuals don’t respect sanitation workers as much as doctors. Yet, both are necessary in our lives. Some people place a high degree of intelligence above a supposed lesser degree of intelligence and, therefore, would give the doctor more respect than the sanitation worker. That does not mean the sanitation worker isn’t intelligent. It could just be that job availability and finances were the deciding factor. So aren’t both worthy of our respect and deserving of equal treatment in that regard? Or not?

Some people feel the amount of money one earns brings with it the degree of respect that is shown. But does that really matter? And what about geographical aspects? When I began my teaching career, some families in the town lived on the “other side of the tracks” and there was a negative attitude about children whose families lived there. And then we have nationality as another possible factor. With many, the very mention of someone from a specific country elicits lesser respect towards the individual.

So where does the amount of respect we show each other come from? Besides being taught as children, it seems that most of us, at some point in our maturity, decide for ourselves who and what to respect. Maybe it’s an unconscious decision. Maybe the deciding factors appear when we become aware that we have “lost” respect for someone. We may ask ourselves why.

For me, the respect I lost was for my dad. He was not a kind man, that I ever witnessed. And he yelled a lot, mostly at my mom. I grew up experiencing a great deal of fear and as that increased, the respect I had previously had for him declined. In researching and writing my memoir as an older adult, I came to know some of his personal experiences in life. I discovered he did not grow up in a loving family, having been kicked out of his own house in eighth grade to fend for himself. All of this while his two brothers were allowed to graduate from high school and became affluent insurance salesmen. That had to be a horrific experience for him. My insight into his early life grew as did my understanding of the behaviors I had witnessed.

Losing respect for someone may be the precursor for developing a dislike for them. And that can develop into a feeling of hatred, creating its own repercussions. Understanding a person’s past is indeed helpful in maintaining at least a semblance of respect for them.

Today I can say that the respect for my dad has returned, albeit post mortem. I respect him for the man he tried to be, for his gifts of figuring measurements in his head for his jobs, for his managing of other men on his jobs. The bridges he built are still standing strong and tall. Those were his strengths. His weakness was in being a Dad; he just didn’t know how.

Now when I think of my dad, I get a warm feeling inside and I’m proud that he was my dad. I’m not proud of his actions but they seem to recede to the background when I think of him. I’ve accepted him for the person he was, not a perfect man by any means but a person just the same. He did the best that he could at the time.

So did my respect for him return? Not in his lifetime. Or was it me that had to grow? He never apologized for anything; he never spoke of any incidents. That would have helped. So, what have I learned from it all?

I have learned not to judge a person when I see them in a weakened state but to concentrate on their gifts. I know I would like to be remembered for the gifts I have and not for any failures or weaknesses that I surely possess. For we all have gifts. We all have weaknesses. I have found that I can accept a person’s apology for any personal wrongdoing. That doesn’t automatically renew the respect I may have had for them previously, but it’s a start. It’s a positive action on their part, and additional experiences may build on that.

And I’ve realized that we do not have to like a person to respect them. Respecting someone for the person they are is paramount but when that is difficult, trying to find other positive qualities or talents they possess helps. And then there is respecting them for their role or the position they hold or for the children they raised or for the community they were active in building. And finally, there is recognizing they are a human being with strengths and weaknesses. This may allow us to treat them with a modicum of respect.

It took a lot of time in nature to work through my feelings for my dad, observing that Mother Nature seems to respect all parts of her natural world. Being engulfed in her beauty and feeling her support directed me to follow the right path up the mountain of my life, so to speak, at least as far as my relationship with my dad was concerned.

Thank you, Mother Nature. I am now at peace.

— — —

Debby Havas is an author living in Jay. Her writings describe the healing energies of Mother Nature.


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