Respect. The world would feel a lot nicer is we all really showed respect for each other these days. Masks or no masks, this guy for president, or that guy. Black lives matter, or all lives matter. How can we actually learn to respect each other?

This post is part of the Five-Minute Friday quick write hosted by Kate Moutang. Join us each Thursday night on Twitter (#FMFParty) for fun and fellowship, then grab a pen and start writing when the prompt goes live!

Respect. The world would feel a lot nicer is we all really showed respect for each other these days. Masks or no masks, this guy for president, or that guy. Black lives matter, or all lives matter. How can we actually learn to respect each other? #respect #BIPOC #antiracism #love #community

Do We Have to Earn Respect?

“If people don’t respect me, I ain’t gonna respect them!” one of my students almost shouted.

“Do you think that’s fair?” I asked the class. “To only respect people who show you respect?”

“Yeah. People have to earn my respect!” another student agreed.

“No,” another student said, “Our elders teach us that we should respect everyone because we all deserve respect.”

“What a wise thing to teach,” I agreed. “But does everyone follow that advice?”

“No,” one young man mumbled. “When I joined a gang on the reservation, I thought everyone would respect me.”

“What happened?” I asked. The other students quieted down to listen to the soft voice of their classmate.

“In order to join the gang, I had to lay on the ground so they could all pee on me.”

The bell for the next class rang into the stunned silence.

I could tell how much this admission had cost the young man, and worried about other students’ reactions. As they filed out of class, I realized I had nothing to worry about. Many of them offered kind words of commiseration.

Who Needs It?

We all need respect, but it’s an odd commodity. We can’t give it away unless we have it. And the more we have it, the easier it is to give it away. It looks a lot like unconditional love.

Respect is an odd commodity. We can't give it away unless we have it for ourselves, first. #respect #fmfparty Click To Tweet

In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus tells us to love others as we love ourselves. But we can’t love others if we don’t actually love ourselves. Likewise, if we don’t respect for ourselves, we have a hard time showing respect for others. And just like we would never think of demanding love, we shouldn’t demand respect.

When we accept ourselves (warts, wrinkles, and weirdness), we show respect for ourselves. Once we have our self-respect in place, we can make the leap to respecting others without conditions.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t find this easy. My alter-ego, Judgy McJudgerton wants to take over my feelings sometimes, and I have to pray hard to portray unconditional kind regard for someone who holds wildly differing views about things (especially controversial things).

Hacks for Showing Respect for People Who Aren’t Just Like You

1. Have Self-Respect. Treat yourself kindly and don’t bully yourself. Once you’ve made peace with yourself, it becomes easier to show respect for others.

Respect. The world would feel a lot nicer is we all really showed respect for each other these days. Masks or no masks, this guy for president, or that guy. Black lives matter, or all lives matter. How can we actually learn to respect each other? #respect #BIPOC #antiracism #love #community

2. Approach others with curiosity, not caution. Instead of assuming the worst of people, assume the best of them. People generally react to strangers in a reciprocal manner to how they perceive the other person feels about them. We give off vibes, and other people can feel them.

3. Try to imagine that each person you see is someone you love. If you’re a Christian, you might imagine Jesus walking towards you. How would you react? With a smile or a frown? Would you look at your phone, or look him in the eyes?

4. Acknowledge the other person’s humanity. Smile. Greet them with a cheerful good morning.

5. Make your interactions more about the other person. How do you think they might feel? Do whatever you can to make them feel comfortable and welcome.

Some of these take a lot of practice to actually implement, but start somewhere! The more respect we show for each other, the nicer our world will be.