A Reflection on Respect

Lately, I have been reflecting about what respect means. I’ve heard this word being used from left to right in nearly all my classes in the beginning of this semester. All my professors have discouraged the use of cell phones and social media during their class. In fact, one of my professors threatened to answer our phone if it went off in class. Another professor of mine (my favorite class) attached a “classroom etiquette policy” to his/her syllabus.  Each professor seemed to have defined respect. I found out that are really two definitions of respect.

The first definition of respect is simple. Oftentimes we hear people say that they respect _____. Think of someone that you admire. The first person that pops in your head is probably the person you want to emulate. You regard this individual as significant and worthy of honor. For whatever reason, you admire this person. Maybe this person said something to you? He or she helped you achieve something? Maybe this individual is your mentor, friend, or significant other?  You admire this individual and celebrate his or her life. It inspires you. There are a million reasons this individual has your respect!

The second definition of respect is the “Golden Rule.” Treat others the way you want to be treated. Oftentimes, we resort to this rule but do we really know what it means? I’ve found that the “Golden Rule” is really showing common courtesy which can be the hardest thing these days! It is about considering someone else’s view and listening to what they have to say. It is about not pushing another person’s boundary or wish. Common courtesy is about being attentive to an individual even if we do not care about him or her.  To respect someone in this manner is to continually make the intentional decision to shut our phones during meetings, making eye contact with people we are interacting with, and actually spending time with our family and friends. The “Golden Rule” is the most genuine and compassionate thing one can do for someone.  To give another person our attention is respectful act.

Today, I find that I have to be intentional about being respectful because it is easy for me to get distracted from a meeting from a Tweet I directly receive on my phone or a FaceBook post. Before I walk into any class, I have to make the conscious effort to turn off my phone. I found that having my phone on silent is just as tempting and distracting. The other day, I found myself in a checkout line at a grocery store and as I was talking to the cashier, my phone went off. I realized how rude it would have been for me to pick up my phone in the middle of a conversation. I did not have to think twice; I turned off my phone. My cashier shared with me a light-hearted story about driving in the fog to work and how she couldn’t see out her windshield. She also shared with me how her worried parents were going to pick her up from work. We exchanged laughs as I told her about my parents doing the exact same thing to me during a snow storm. I’ve learned that respect is something I must be intentional about. It is an intentional act of kindness and I think that is important. We must respect those whom we encounter with even though we may disagree with someone’s idea, value, or belief. In these times, we have to be extra alert to the individual and respond in a way that is considerate and polite.

1)      What are your definitions of respect?

2)       What do you feel about respect being gained or earned?

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