July 15, 2009

Just a little bit--makes a lot

R-E-S-P-E-C-T… Find out what it means to me. The other day, I heard myself say something which sounded contradictory. A slightly more complicated version of what I said would be "In respect to that woman of respect for whom I have no respect, I respect all her opinions."

The problem is how can I respect and also, simultaneously, not respect? Of course, the ultimate answer is there are different levels of meaning.

At the fundamental level, respect is recognition that every thing is due a sense of worth. It is an acceptance that everything has a God-given right to exist-everything. This form of respect is appreciation for the people, places, and (I contend) ideas around us. Our opinions about the specific thing does not matter at this level.

The other forms of respect are more superficial or relative. A "person of respect" is someone society has deemed in a position that you and I should hold in high esteem or honor. Political figures, parents, and community leaders are often given this title; although, it is sometimes far from fitting. The statement "I respect her" is often dependent on the actions of a person in a given situation. We "respect" actions that are consistent with actions we like. We "do not respect " actions that are not acceptable to us. Of course, what we choose to like and what we find acceptable are very relative. When we were in High School, we may have respected someone who dared to speak up against adults. As an adult, we may all find less respect in any such behavior from children. These forms of respect, though valid, are relative. Your definition of respectful behavior could differ from how I define respect.

The first definition of respect is fundamental and, for all things that ever even existed, unfaltering. So, all things in existence should be the object of respect. When I use the term "respect," I mean respect in this fundamental way, particularly when I am also discussing actions of "integrity" and "responsibility."

General understanding of these levels by others can make a difference in the world. Why not make a difference?

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