1. challenges
  2. character
  3. character education
  4. commitment
  5. compassion
  6. conflict resolution
  7. contentment
  8. cooperation
  9. courage
  10. decision-making
  11. encouragement
  12. filial piety
  13. goals
  14. gratitude
  15. healthy families
  16. healthy lifestyle
  17. integrity
  18. kindness
  19. leadership
  20. life goals
  21. loyalty
  22. marriage
  23. meaningful life
  24. moral education
  25. perseverance
  26. politeness
  27. relationship skills
  28. religion
  29. respect
  30. responsibility
  31. self-awareness
  32. self-improvement
  33. service
  34. sexuality
  35. social awareness
  36. sportsmanship
  37. teamwork
  38. tolerance
  39. trustworthiness

Everyone wants to be respected. Feeling "dissed" or disrespected is the source of a lot of conflicts between people. Since everyone wants respect, what exactly is it?

When we say we "respect" someone, it means that we see value in him or her and treat the person accordingly. We might respect our lab partner because he is always helpful and supportive of others in class. Or we might respect a gym assistant because she is a fair referee.

We may respect specific people for specific things, but being respectful is also a general attitude toward other people that sees them as having value and having good qualities in spite of their mistakes and faults. It means acting toward others as if each is worthy of good treatment.

A respectful person has a certain dignity because he or she affirms basic human worth. Therefore, if we want others to respect us, we should be respectful toward them. A disrespectful person has little dignity and therefore gets less respect back from others.

Why it's sometimes hard to respect others

There are many reasons why we have trouble respecting others. One main reason is that some people expect others to be and act a certain way and then are disappointed when they don't live up to those expectations. It is easy, then, to devalue the person. In these cases, we really need to remember to look for the good qualities in a person. It is far better for us to see a person for who he or she is, not what we expect him or her to be. If we feel disappointed, instead of becoming angry with the person, we need to ask ourselves if our expectations are too high.

A young man once said of his father, "He always tries hard to discover something he can respect in every person. He says he is never disappointed; in fact, he always finds more than he expected to!" These are words worth remembering.

Another reason why we have trouble respecting others is because we don't agree with their opinions or ideas. Each of us is a unique individual, and we each have our own opinions and beliefs. We should respect other people even if we disagree with their views or even if they are different from us. We can still respect someone while disagreeing.

When people respect each other, they create an atmosphere that helps people feel good about themselves and about each other. They then feel motivated and encouraged to continue acting in a respectful way toward each other and to extend that good treatment to others. Showing respect builds good relationships and helps our character growth.

On the other hand, when we fail to show respect to others, problems occur in relationships. Once disrespect starts, it becomes easier to notice each other's annoying habits or to see each other in a bad light. Have you ever noticed how quickly you can dislike a classmate once you have begun to look at him or her negatively? Maybe the person did something that someone else thought was "uncool" or odd. Pretty soon, those around you begin to call this person names or treat them badly. What happened?
Others were not taking the time to respect this person. They were not able to see the good qualities in that person. So, naturally, they could not treat the person with any respect.

When we notice only the things that annoy us or that we don't particularly like—or when we concentrate on external things like stains on their clothing, their messy, unusual hairstyle, or their rude behavior, it is easy to get annoyed simply by other people's presence. Their every action, no matter how harmless, bothers us. Once that happens, our negative feelings toward the person get worse and worse (even if the person is not doing anything wrong) and it is easy to somehow feel that he or she is not as good as we are. We become blinded to the good things they may do; we cannot see any good qualities in them.

However, if we change our attitude to one of respect for others, we don't seem to notice anything strange in others' behavior. Even characteristics that used to cause bad feelings now seem harmless, easily ignored, or even attractive!

The Artist

In his book Bonds that Make Us Free, author C. Terry Warner tells the story of two artists. One artist searches the world over for the perfect person to paint. But each person he finds has some flaw of face or figure and he gets frustrated and stops painting.

The other artist uses people around him as the subjects of his portraits. Although they are ordinary people, as he paints, he finds some beauty within each one, which he tries to bring out in his painting. Which is the true artist?

We can be true artists at life if we too learn to see and respect the beauty and good qualities in the people around us.

Source: Terry Warner, Bonds that Make us Free, Shadow Mountain Publishers, 2001.

Learning respect

We have talked about what respect is and how important it is in relationships. But, where does respect begin? We know that we learn about how to form social relationships in our families. We learn things like manners. We learn to wait our turn, to ask to have things passed to us at the table, to share with others. We learn to hold doors open for others rather than letting the door slam in someone's face. Our parents instruct us to do things like allow the elderly to go first when getting on a bus or subway and to thank people who have served us. As our parents teach us how to behave socially, they are teaching us respect. They also model respectful behavior to us through the way they treat others and the way they treat members of the family.

If a husband and wife do not respect one another, their children will adopt that kind of disrespectful behavior toward each other, their parents, and others in general. Today, in many societies, children talk back to their parents, swear at them, and even order them around. That is not a truly loving family. Respect should be established first in the family. On the building block of respect, true love can develop.

In our families, we also learn to see things from another's point of view. As teenagers, our ability to see things through the eyes of another should be well-developed. At the same time, we should be concerned with how other people see us in terms of our attitudes and actions, rather than be worried about what we think of others. Why is this so important? It is important because this helps us learn how to reflect on our own behavior and attitudes so that we may continue to mature, becoming better and better people. This also helps us learn how to become more aware of and sensitive to the emotions and needs of those around us. This is also an important characteristic of respect.

Respect is important not only in family relationships and friendships. Today whole societies are infected by an atmosphere of disrespect. Students do not respect their teachers, while teachers do not respect their students. In the workplace, employers and employees show disrespect for one another. The media spreads disrespect in relationships every day through TV, movies and songs. Television shows and movies seem to encourage us to look at others with suspicion and to question their motives when people do something good for one another or show care and concern for others. However, if we learn to show respect to those close to us or in our school and neighborhoods, our communities will soon be surrounded by an atmosphere of respect.

Listening well—a great way to show respect

One of the best ways to show respect is by being a good listener. In class or in a meeting, this means not interrupting when someone else is talking—either the teacher or a fellow classmate. In personal relationships, it means listening very actively to our friend, relative, husband or wife. Listening may seem easy, but it is not. It requires some work, but it is well worth it.

People feel appreciated and genuinely valued when someone listens to them. Don't you? When your parents actually stop talking and listen to you, understand your meaning and are affected by your point of view, doesn't it feel great? Don't you feel respected—affirmed—loved?

Listening means much more than just hearing the words. Listening involves being interested in the other person. If someone feels you are genuinely interested in what he has to say, he will tend to respond back with respect and gratitude. Merely pretending to be interested doesn’t work. Relationships are mostly influenced by our sincerity, and being a good listener shows sincere care for the other person.

Some people can't look at the person to whom they are listening or speaking. Rather, their eyes wander around, looking anywhere but directly at the other person. This gives an impression of not paying attention or even dishonesty. Listening involves looking at the person, reading his or her body language and picking up emotional hints from the eyes, the tone of voice, the pauses. It means listening with the heart as well as the head. When we do this, we have done another person the great favor or respecting him or her and validating his or her feelings and value as a person. People love people who will listen to them! (Sometimes they pay a psychologist a lot of money to listen to them!) Listening well makes friends. A good listener will always be in demand because a good listener shows respect for others.

All of us need and want to be respected. Let us begin by first showing respect for others. All it takes is a smile and a simple "Hello." In a world where disrespect has become so common, we can be the first to be unafraid to show respect for others. In this way, respect will flow back to us from them.

Questions for reflection

1. What are ways of showing respect for ourselves?

2. What are ways of showing respect for others?

3. What is the relationship between respect and love?

4. Why do you think people so often show disrespect for one another?

5. How can you show respect to those with whom you disagree?

6. Even if you know you are right and the other person is wrong, how would you show respect towards this person?

7. What does a person have to do to gain your respect?

8. How should you act if you want others to respect you?

9. How do you feel when someone you care about does something to lose your respect for him/her?

Exercise: “Lists of respect”

Make two lists with numbers one through five. Label the first list: "People I Respect the Most." Label the second list: "People Who I Feel Show Me the Most Respect." Before making each list, think carefully about the people and what they do that causes you to feel this way about them.
Who are these people—your family members, close friends, teachers, famous actors or singers? Is it more or is it less difficult to respect people you know very well? Is the respect you have for a famous figure the same as the respect you have for your friend?

Reflection exercise: “Respect”

“When we fail to show respect, problems occur.” Do you agree with this statement? What kind of problems can arise when people fail to respect each other?
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