“Respect is one of the greatest expressions of love.” Miguel Ruiz
As a part of my mission to bring Values-based Education into school communities, I have frequently been part of a Values Forum. This occurs when parents, school staff and other stakeholders come together to think about the dispositions, values, that they want their children to think about and live in their lives.
What always amazes me is that very different communities will select very similar values, which they want their children to learn about and live in their lives. The value that often gets the most votes is respect.
What is respect? For me it is useful to think of respect in two ways. First, respect can be considered as a basic human right that is unconditionally given to everyone, irrespective of race, colour, politics, religion or culture. This means that when we give respect we acknowledge the inherent worth and rights of others. We treat everyone fairly, communicating in a civil manner and listening respectfully to what people say. This is what Carl Rogers, the psychologist called, giving, unconditional, positive regard. Of course, this basic right is extended to the natural environment.
Secondly at a more specific level, respect is about earning the respect of others through our words and actions. For example, being open and honest in our communication with others. Also at this level, respect can be experienced as a deep feeling of admiration for someone elicited by his or her abilities, qualities or achievements.
In considering the extent to which we show respect, it is best to begin with ourselves. How do you respect yourself? Do you give yourself time for exercise, adequate sleep, nourishing food, times of quietness and relaxation? The more you nurture self-respect the easier it is to extend respect to others.
Respect then will blossom in us naturally, as we grow in awareness of our own implicit biases and times when we act out of conscious awareness. If you are like me, you will regret times when you have been hurtful in your words, or been insensitive to another’s feelings.
Giving ourselves time, perhaps with a trusted friend, to ponder how we show respect in our lives; acknowledging when we do, helps us to strengthen this core value, which helps us to express love. As Miguel Ruiz identified, “Respect is one of the greatest expressions of love”.