Wilbur - Fayetteville, North Carolina
Entered on June 12, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: respect

I believe in the reciprocal power of respect, respect for other and respect for self. I believe that when we show respect for others, it is difficult for them, eventually, not to show respect for us. I learned this simple lesson as a young boy growing up during a time when mutual respect was widely expected and freely given.

I grew up with such simple pleasantries and social exchanges as Excuse me, Please, Yes Ma’m, No Ma’m; Yes sir, No Sir; Thank-you and Good Morning; and I was taught to interact with other in ways that demonstrated civility and cordiality. Therefore, respect is the watchword that, on a daily basis, guides me and my interactions with others. Today, unfortunately, when I state simple pleasantries, initiate friendly social exchanges and engage in civil discourses, they are often misunderstood and often interpreted as weaknesses, somehow making me subservient to others. I believe, in fact, that the exact opposite is true. They are actually strengths. I believe they powerfully convey strengths of my character, my confidence, my personal presence and my self-assuredness. Showing respect is the essence of who I am as a husband, father, brother; son, uncle, son-in-law, friend and professional. I believe that when we respect ourselves, it is also easier to show respect for other. When we show respect for others, it is reciprocated in innumerable and unimaginable ways.

It seems that respect has become a scarce commodity in our society today. In other words, respect seems to be in ever-decreasing supply. I often encounter many adults whose apparent chief aim in life is to be totally disrespectful of others. It is almost like they believe respecting others will diminish them in some way, and it is their right and obligation to disrespect others in order to conserve and preserve themselves. They most often want to receive respect, but don’t know how or are unwilling to give it. While this is very troubling, more troubling still is the number of young people I’ve encountered who make a sport of disrespecting any adult or authority figure—especially parents, teachers, and police officers— without any justification or provocation. They often glorify in the creative and innovative ways they’ve learned to show their disrespect toward others and seize upon every opportunity to express their total disgust of and contempt for any authority. They seem not to realize that, ultimately, such attitudes and behaviors hurt only themselves, not others, and eventually could lead them to disastrous outcomes.

Showing respect doesn’t cost anything, but it can yield unlimited benefits for and pay enormous dividends to anyone and everyone who has the strength to demonstrate and model it. We can create societal expectations of respect and make respect an infectious commodity that multiplies as we give it to others. While this seems like a paradox, it, in fact, is a basic principle of reciprocity with mutually re-enforcing consequences, ironically meaning the more we give, the more we get in return. I believe that if we, as adults, always take the lead to show respect, its reciprocal power can shape the attitudes and behaviors of young adults and help to transform the whole society.