One thing I was taught as a child was respect. Respect other people. Respect their property. Respect their feelings. Respect their rights. A wise school superintendent once told us students, “Your freedom ends where my nose begins.” What has happened to that kind of thinking? We seem to live in a society where many feel their beliefs and attitudes are above those of everyone else and should be imposed on the world. Not only that, but many live like they are the only ones that matter in the whole scheme of things.
Sometimes it is baffling to see the lack of respect people have for one another. Even the trash scattered along the sides of roadways screams ‘disrespect’! A few years ago the popular logo on tee shirts and caps was “No Fear”. That sounds good because we should not be unreasonably fearful of anything. However, there is a fear that is natural and is good for us. This fear keeps us from getting hurt or hurting others. There is also a reverential fear that helps us revere or respect authority. I am saddened to hear so many news stories about people fighting against police officers, school teachers, and other authorities that should be respected.
Another popular logo was “I’m a princess.” Seems like this was the beginning of the ‘it’s all about me’ attitude we see so much of today. I’m amazed at the number of ‘selfies’ I see on social media, even among older folks. Is it because people think so highly of themselves that they are convinced others want to constantly see their faces, or is it a desire for constant confirmation that they are beautiful or handsome? Either way, ‘it’s all about me.’ So, what does this have to do with respect? Respect does not have the attitude, ‘it’s all about me’.
Recently a group of vandals decided to destroy Duckbill, a centuries-old landmark sandstone pedestal in Oregon. A few years ago, it was Boy Scout leaders, grown men, who toppled an ancient rock formation in Utah. Why? I guess because they wanted to. It didn’t seem to matter that it wasn’t their property, or that it was important to other people. Both groups seemed to decide—on their own—that these rocks, which had stood hundreds of years, were dangerous and someone might get hurt. Seriously?
A few years ago while I was teaching school and my husband was at therapy after heart surgery, someone broke into our house. We don’t have much, but it’s ours. We worked for it. This person took my 1968 vintage Gibson guitar I had purchased new, played in church, and planned to hand down to my children (if they would learn to play it). They stole my jewelry which wasn’t valuable except to me since much of it was fashioned by my sister who died from cancer. They stole my husband’s coin collections he was building for his grandchildren. Why? Because they wanted something and didn’t want to work for it. It didn’t matter that someone else had worked for it and owned it.
During the years I taught school I witnessed students who thought nothing of tearing up something that belonged to someone else. A student gave me a pretty wax apple for my desk. Students destroyed it. Another student gave me a beautiful wooden apple for my desk. Someone took it. I often wondered how they would feel if I destroyed something of theirs, or took it. I would never do that, because even though they had no respect for my possessions, I would respect them and their possessions. I cannot control their behaviors and attitudes, but I am in charge of mine.
Sometimes I think we need to go back to the Old Testament method of ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ Those people who destroy something that belongs to someone else should have their belongings destroyed. But no, that’s not God’s way and He knows best. The only way to restore respect in our society is for parents to teach it and demonstrate it to their children. At one time in our country, it was important to teach children manners and respect, and we can do it again. We can talk positively about authority so that children learn respect for law enforcement officers, teachers, and others in authority.
Our children learn from watching us, so our actions are important in teaching them respect. I save my trash for the trash can. If it isn’t mine, I leave it alone. If I want it, I work and buy it. If someone’s opinion or belief is different from mine, I know they have a right to an opinion or belief as much as I do. If someone asks me about my opinion or belief, then by all means I will share. Otherwise, I need to keep quiet about it. Everyone doesn’t have to hear my opinion. I’m constantly amazed by the amount of negative comments on an opinion post on social media. People rudely bash each other on a public forum with name calling and ugly words just because they have a different belief or opinion.
I think to some extent it has to do with how one was raised, but more than that, it is a lack of maturity. Babies cry when they want something, no matter who they are interrupting. They have a right to do that since they are dependent on others for their needs. But most of us are not. We need to grow up and learn to respect other people. If we would stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about others we could gain more power and respect in our relationships. It sure would be nice to see more respect among people, wouldn’t it?