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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

R-E-S-P-E-C-T - Thumper's Way


Growing up, my father used to tell me "You lay down with dogs you'll get up with fleas.  Choose your friends wisely and stay away from the dogs."  Believe me when I tell you, I've gotten mixed up with quite a few dogs in my life, and I'm still itchin'.  It's difficult, I know, as a child especially, to feel completely isolated when just about everyone you meet is a "dog."  And that is the problem in this country.  Literally and figuratively.  Respect.  We don't teach our children respect, and if we do, we don't follow through by example.  Well, I am trying to teach mine, and it isn't easy.



I believe that we are born with an innate desire to be superior and to want to be noticed, even at the expense of others.  We've all done it.  We see someone on television, we hear about someone, meet someone, become "friends" with someone, or have a member of our own family who we feel is - well - you know what I'm getting at - stupid.  ill informed.  uneducated.  mean spirited.  vulgar to a fault.  dirty.  something.  And then the disrespect starts.  We start to talk to others about this person.  We might start by talking to our parents, or our siblings, or our best friend.  We might even start to spread rumors about that other person.  All in an attempt to elevate ourselves.  It is our way of saying to the world "I am not like this."  "I am okay."  "I do not have these issues."  "I find this behavior disgusting."  And we talk about others behind their back to massage our own ego, our own need to feel validated and "respected."  In many ways, talking disrespectfully about others is merely an attempt to scream out to the world "Please don't talk about me in that light."  "Please see me as something else better." 

It is human nature to want to be validated.  Recognized.  Respected.  That is why humility is so difficult for most of us.  We can't see past our own egos so that we "see" the other person for who they really are.  Our brother.  Our sister.  Our mother.  Our father.  Our friend.  Our neighbor.  A stranger on the street.  Even the bully around the corner.



When we go to the grocery store with our child and we see someone who looks disheveled, obese, different, do we talk to the person we are with and say "Look at that?"  "Can you believe that?"  Or do we try to pray for them?  Say hello?  Help them?  If you were to go shopping and you noticed a mother or father abusing their young child and the child was screaming and crying - would you go up to the parent and yell at them?  Shove them away?  Assault them too?  Walk away and talk about them? Or would you go up and calmly and respectfully say "I want to help," and then touch the parent on the shoulder and say "It's going to be okay, let me help you calm down" and then proceed to help that parent by understanding that they are human and probably have a lot going on in their life right now.  Really.  And then hug the child.  Smile.  Stroke the child's hair and tell them it's okay.  Would you do this?  I have.  Why?  Because as hard as it is to show it sometimes, I believe in the power of respect.  I believe in trying to understand others.  I believe in compassion.  I believe that we all deserve respect because we were given this life by God and we should respect it, not torment one another with abusive words and behavior.  

Let me say I am guilty of all the things I've written here.  I am guilty of them all.  I have said and done things in my life that I am not proud of.  I won't make excuses.  Ignorance is not bliss.  I learned.  I still make mistakes and errors in judgment. But I want to be remembered in this life for having been a good person, a good mother, wife, daughter, friend, neighbor, and stranger.  And, I want to be forgiven for the mistakes I've made, the errors in judgment that I've made, the times in my life I have tripped up.  We all deserve a chance to make good in this life.  I am trying my best to teach my children about respect, too, and I am starting by shutting them down when they talk disrespectfully about anyone else.  



For instance - take last night.  Sarah was doing her homework and Bob and I were helping her put together her Excel spreadsheet for a class she is taking.  Her teacher in this class is an accomplished woman and who doesn't take any crap off of anyone.  Sarah began to say things about her that were not very nice.  She was being a typical teenager.  I don't fault her for this, as most if not all of the kids in her school do it constantly, but I turned to her and I said "stop."  "Stop right there."  "Would you say that to her face?  Would you say to your teacher the very things you just said to me, and say them to her face?"  "Then hush.  Zip it up.  Your teacher has earned the right to be teaching your class.  She has earned her degree.  She has raised her children to be a doctor and a lawyer.  You are 15, and you have not earned the right to judge her.  Nobody has that right but God.  So you show her the respect she deserves and you keep your mouth shut.  You be a better person."  Sarah apologized and I hope she understood.  And then I thought of something my father used to always say to me, "Be a leader, not a follower."



Easier said than done I know.  We all want to be followers.  Why?  Because we all want to feel like we fit in.  We want to feel as though we aren't a square peg shoved into a round hole.  That's why.  We want to feel like others approve of us, so we go with the flow.  Funny, how when you come face to face with a rebellious soul who doesn't want to conform, rather than taking the high road with their behavior, they rebel and take the back road.  They fight.  They show disrespect to everyone and everything.  They treat others like trash.  Yep, that's their way of not "fitting in."  The problem is that they're going in the wrong direction.  If anyone really wants to rebel - be a good person.  That will stand tall right in the face of humanity.  Anyone can be a jerk, but how hard is it, really, to be a good person?

I've told my children over and over again.  "if what you want to say about someone else is something you won't say to their face - then keep your mouth shut.  Nobody said you couldn't think those things, but show some humanity and shut your trap."  And "even if you did say it their face, if it is meant to be nothing more than hurtful, and anything less than constructive criticism, then keep it to yourself."  I think this world would be a better place if more people kept their big mouths shut.  This world is filled with enough verbal vomit, and believe me, I've contributed my share, but at least "try" to be of value in this world.  Try to be a good person.  Try to keep your mouth closed if it will hurt others.  Try to be respectful of others.  Try to teach others by example how to reach out and lift up rather than tear down.



So there you have it.  Be a respectful person, not a back stabber.  Don't be the smile you give a friend only to trash them behind their back.  We can all be better than that.  Try to fill your space on this earth with song rather than verbal vacuous.  And if you do slip up, and we all will, at least have the humility to say you are sorry and stop.  If you have a friend who enjoys this kind of talk, then kindly say "let's talk about something else" and change the subject, or if you are bold, simply say "that really isn't very nice, let's talk about something else."  There are ways to express yourself without being ugly.  There are ways to elevate yourself without tearing others down.  And that is what we all need to learn.  Be aware of your words.  Be kind and thoughtful.  No matter what sludge you have behind you, plant flowers going forward.

We need to be conscious of our words and our actions.  We need to respect the lives of others regardless of what we think of them or they of us.  Michael Jackson wrote a song that said it all - Take a look at yourself and then make a change.  I think I will.  How about you?


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