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Find Out What It Means to Me

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A seven-year-old holds up his cell phone with his finger on a pre-set number and threatens to call social services in response to his grandparent's attempt at discipline.

A pharmacist tells his supervisor, "If my vacation is not approved, I'll call in sick!"

An arrogant senior citizen ignores the queue and steps to the front, with no regard for those who have patiently waited in line.

A college football player runs to the sideline, rips off his helmet and gets in his coach's face, screaming.

A teen announces to the waiter that he won't be eating because the restaurant he preferred wasn't chosen.

A speeding driver passes in a school zone – in a curve with double yellow lines.

A football official begins the game with an arrogant attitude towards the coach.

We've all been victims.

When children are not taught to be respectful of others, as they should be at an early age, they are disrespectful to teachers in school, other people who might be able to help them, and children they might like to have as friends. Because so many children are not taught the value of respect, schools become anarchic. And when the parents are brought in, what is their response? "Not my child." "We’ll put him in another school." Or better, "I'll sue." There is no respect for authority, institutions, or others. Parents who don't teach their children self-respect raise children who respect nothing. They do their children a great disservice.

Many of the baby boomer generation may feel that they were raised in too strict an environment, hence the rebellion of the 60s. In our family, it was considered disrespectful to simply disagree with my parents. Respect was an important facet of our social relationships. When respect is no longer valued, negative behaviors are the result. Respectful people do not use obscene or other objectionable language in hearing range of others. People who respect no one, nothing, not even themselves are not on the top of the list of potential job candidates. Actually, they are not a top choice for anything.

A person suddenly thrust into a management position in our culture feels that the position itself brings a certain amount of respect. The honeymoon for that attitude is usually short-lived. A good leader will work hard to earn the respect of the team, to build on the "position respect" with "personal respect". It's not that there are no longer people who appreciate the value of being respectful, it's that disrespect is just so flagrant. Remember the old saying, "familiarity breeds contempt"? Well, it certainly breeds contemptible people. As the boundaries between each of us fade, people become overfamiliar, often with the result that they think that they can say or do anything in front of others (perhaps a select group of others, perhaps all others). They lose respect for others' boundaries, and with it, respect for others (if indeed they had either).

Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, the Dalai Lama, all the world's great minds have advocated a similar philosophy. Love one another. Treat others as you wish to be treated. If we followed this directive we would treat everyone with respect, because that is how we wish to be treated. We should treat every person as we would want someone we loved to be treated.

[The author thanks Bob Etier, dear friend and muse, for her contributions.]
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About FCEtier

  • Fran Howell Pearson

    Mr. Etier is one of the most talented men I have ever known. And he lives what he writes about. I have known him his entire life, and I consider him as my other younger brother. He can do very many things very well.

  • I believe we need to teach respect both verbally and by example. If we don’t show children respect, or if we ourselves regard authority with contempt, they’ll follow our example. As Bob Lloyd commented above, they’ll easily recognize the hypocrisy. And they’ll start to lose respect for us.

    We also shouldn’t excessively coddle them–making them feel like they’re the center of the world. That only gives them a distorted sense of reality. On the other hand, when we give them real responsibilities (as opposed to doing everything for them), that shows we respect them as capable human beings.

  • Bob Etier

    Bob Lloyd makes an important point, distinguishing between respect for people and respect for ideas. However, it is also important that we maintain respect for the person while rejecting his/her ideas. Sort of like hating the sin, not the sinner!

  • I think there’s a problem when people confuse respect for people with respect for ideas. Certainly people deserve respect, but ideas do not. It seems very easy for people to assume that respect for them as individuals automatically implies respect for everything they say. It doesn’t.

    Kids particularly are very good at detecting hypocrisy, and especially adults who say “because I told you so!” Sometimes problems with kids comes from that assertion of authority.

    Of course, adolescents are difficult to reason with, especially when their critical antennae are wagging but when adults insist on respect for their ideas, that’s a problem.

    We should all be able to demonstrate a willingness to question ideas without being offended by the process. When someone challenges the morality of Christianity, the response of Christians shouldn’t be to insult the questioner, but to reason with them and explore the criticism as I’m sure most do. If someone raises a political criticism, the response should be to be prepared for the ideas to be torn apart, without getting at all insulted by it. Ideas are just ideas.

    Giving people respect, but not ideas, encourages kids to be open-minded and tolerant, and at the same time preserving the respect for individuals. Showing kids that authority doesn’t rest on force but on rationality and agreement, is a much better way forward all round.

  • Good article. I think there are now two generations of people who have this attitude. It’s going to be hard to correct.

  • Bernie Kleinstein

    I noticed that the first book in the ads following the article talks about teaching respect in school. Hmmm….
    I’ve always contended that respect be taught at home and re-enforced at school.
    Your examples at the beginnig really hit home with me!

  • Miriam Goldberg

    Excellent! This is a subject that seems to have disappeared into the shadows. Everyone wants to know what’s gone wrong in our society, but nobody wants to actually blame anyone. Yes, respect is what our religious leaders teach us; yes, we all want respect; yes, the devaluation of respect has had an awesomely bad effect on our society; no, nobody seems to care. Okay that’s an exaggeration, but the issue is so basic and so ignored. Simply, if we RESPECTED we wouldn’t need to read commandments or laws or guidelines to know what is legal or socially responsible, etc. Because we respect, we would not “stray from the path.” This article addresses this problem so succinctly. Good work, Chip and Bob.

  • The image accompanying this article is copyrighted by RFWLLC, a company which I own. This image is protected by all applicable laws and is not available for public use without written permission from Royal Flamingo Works, LLC or myself. FCEtier