Respect looks past differences
Splash Guest Column
In the English language, we use the word "respect" in a number of different contexts. We respect our parents because they are in a position of authority; we respect the American flag for the liberty and justice of which it is symbolic. We speak of respecting the environment or "paying our respects" to a loved one who has passed away. But respect is far more than any one of these examples. Respect is a mindset concerning the way we interact with our world.
The Bible speaks of respect. We find in Leviticus 19:3 that respect is included in the Ten Commandments. "You must respect your father and mother." It appears again in 1 Peter 2:17, where we read, "Show respect for all people." The PACE definition of respect can help us to understand what this means. It says that respect is "recognizing, considering and properly honoring the worth of one's self and others." As we interact with our family, friends, parents, or teachers, we should remember that every human being is unique, completely one of a kind, and that when we are respectful, we show others just how much we value them. Love, out of necessity, requires that we are respectful.
Conversely, disrespectful behavior has the potential to do serious damage. If we don't value each other in our minds, we won't be loving in our words and actions. We may actually harm a relationship and destroy our reputations with others. Far worse than this is the discouragement, pain and low self-esteem that afflict others when we are disrespectful.
So what should we do when it's hard to show respect? Maybe it will help to remember the "Golden Rule," from the book of Luke, "Do to others what you would want them to do to you." The great part is that this rule applies to anyone, in any situation! When we see or meet someone from a culture or background that is different from ours, being respectful of their heritage will encourage them to be respectful of ours. Mutual respect is just about the easiest way to help make the world into a better place.
In the early days of our country, two politicians, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, had vastly opposing ideas concerning the role of government. They had come from different backgrounds, been raised in separate parts of the nation and were often political opponents. They also happened to be good friends. Jefferson and Adams had the kind of respect for one another that didn't allow a political difference to get in the way. They understood that there was more that united them than divided. In America today, it feels like our differences are irreconcilable, but we need to take Jefferson and Adams as our examples. Our shared humanity is far more important than any views that may separate us.
Respect is one of the easiest ways to demonstrate appreciation, and as students beginning the next school year, we must be keenly aware of how respectful we are towards others. Respect will change our schools, workplaces and homes for the better because it is respect that ensures that no matter who we are, we can work together.
Peter Underhill is a senior at Freeman High School and that school's recipient at the 2012 PACE Awards. He was chosen by the staff out of all Freeman High School students for "bringing character to light" all year long. This column was written as part of a monthly series highlighting the PACE (Partners Advancing Character Education) trait of the month, which is "respect." For more information, visit www.pacecommunity.org.