By Louise Gorenflo
Respect is a fundamental ethical value, but its depth is not always obvious. We commonly practice respect by showing our regard for the inherent worth and dignity of all people through courtesy, politeness, civility and restraint. When respectful of others we do not use them to benefit ourselves. Nor do we prevent their access to resources and power necessary for their well-being. We extend this respect to ourselves, as well. These different ways of demonstrating our respect for others are all essential to our well-being and that of others.
Another view of respect is that it is necessary for learning. We learn more easily from someone we respect. Respect opens the mind and loosens our preconceived opinions to make room for new knowledge and skills. At the same time, people who value their knowledge feel more inclined to teach it to someone who shows respect than to someone who doesn't. When we think we know the answer, we are less likely to listen to others.
Unless we recognize the riskiness of questionable behavior and respect the harm such behaviors can cause, we will persist in our dangerous habits until they overwhelm us. If you deeply know that smoking endangers your health, then you will make every effort to stop smoking. If we abandon such behaviors, we free ourselves from their harm.
Not only are we responsible for the consequences of our actions, but we can change our behavior so that we can change what we experience, aligning what we get with what we want. We can respect our ability to develop the skills needed to understand and master the behaviors needed for our well-being. Respect the goals we have achieved and know we can achieve new goals that we set for ourselves.
We all find ourselves in situations in which we want to indulge in one way or another. Yet if we have learned by experiencing the results of our actions that such behavior creates our own suffering, then we should stop doing it. This puts honoring and respecting the way the world works ahead of our own wants. Respect and learn from lessons that life presents us.
We benefit from respecting anyone who criticizes us, regardless of whether or not we consider that person wise or the criticism well-founded. Their insights may be just what are needed to cut through our blind spots. This doesn't mean that we need to accept their observations unthinkingly. We simply owe it to ourselves to give them a respectful hearing and their advice an honest try. Even ― especially ― when their advice is unpleasant, we should treat it with respect.
Through respect of others, we can learn from them. Through respect for how the world works, we can achieve our goals. And through respect for ourselves, we can be the person we want to be.
May you find what I have presented interesting and something you can use in your life. I invite you to email me your thoughts (firstname.lastname@example.org).