RESPECT: Responsibility, Esteem, Sensitivity, Patience, Empathy, Courtesy, Tolerance

By Ali Anthony Bell


An unsettling experience with a colleague prompted me to write this article on RESPECT. We all need and merit respect by the sole fact that we are living creatures sharing a planet with billions of others. Respect is the absolute minimum behavior to be expected among all of our relations with each other and with all forms of life on this planet. Nonetheless, it is very often with disrespect that we humans treat each other and the world around us. Not to be taken lightly, respect is a word loaded with deep meaning:


Respect means Responsibility; being able to make ethical decisions on one’s own and standing accountable for these decisions. Respect means following and abiding by the laws, rules, procedures, and guidelines which serve to make living together in communities possible.


Respect means Esteem; Every person and every living thing has its reason for being and its rightful place on Earth. Respect means having a high regard for all forms of life and for anyone who has not proved themselves unworthy by their acts (of disrespect). We are all special. As Bill Nye put it “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” Open yourself to seeing the greatness of each person and acknowledge it.


Respect means Sensitivity; not only being aware of the attitudes, feelings, circumstances, and background of others, but also being sensitive to the environment, and taking all these things into careful consideration while reflecting on how to act responsibly. Every word we speak and every act we take has an effect on our surroundings. Taking the time to reflect on the possible effects before acting or speaking, and doing or saying things which are helpful and not harmful is being responsible and respectful.


Respect means Patience; taking the time necessary to calmly await the outcome of events without jumping to conclusions, or to listen to what others have to say without interrupting in order to really make an effort to understand their perspectives.


Respect means Empathy; taking a further step beyond Sensitivity to really understand and identify with everything around us. To act unselfishly, doing to others as we would want them to do to us; as A. Einstein put it “Our task must be to free ourselves…by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty”.


Respect means Courtesy; showing consideration for others by observing the accepted manners, speech, and behavior of the social environment we find ourselves in, being civil and even-tempered, avoiding any speech or behavior which may be offensive to the people we find ourselves with, even if it may seem trivial to us. It is the seemingly petty everyday politeness in our treatment of others which shows them that we respect both their individuality and their cultural background.


Respect means Tolerance; acceptance of the fact that we are all different and recognizing that every person has a right to their own opinions, beliefs, and practices however divergent they may be from our own.


What we can understand is that Respect and Individualism are not compatible with each other. In order for Respect to exist we must do away with our self-centeredness. The challenge we are facing is that Individualism is a disease which is spreading over the earth like wildfire, and with it Disrespect, irresponsibility, lack of esteem, insensitivity, impatience, indifference, discourtesy, and intolerance.


Let us try to bring RESPECT into our lives and wipe out the disease which is crippling our planet, a disease much worse than the pandemic we are currently experiencing.

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