I often wonder what many of us truly mean by the word “respect.” There are varying levels of interpreting this word, this ambiguous concept. How are we to understand Respect? What implications should it have in our daily lives?
Many see Respect as mere tolerance, as a form of accepting what others do as their own business, letting it fall by the wayside while we return to our daily lives. Others see it as an agreement similar to the Golden Rule, an agreement of reciprocity – treat others as you yourself would wish to be treated. We agree to do so, and return to the shell of our daily lives. Others still would see it as solely an obligation to elders – grandparents, bosses, and benefactors of any name. They pay Respect when it is due, and move on.
I see Respect as entailing something much more, and while I believe it encompasses the above three aspects, it attains a much deeper reality. Respect is centered around an ideal of genuine openness, a desire to truly know differing perspective on a topic. When we seek to give and gain Respect, we tolerate others and expect toleration, do unto others and have others do unto us, and rightly treat our benefactors and have others do the same for us, but we also seek a genuine understanding of the other party, a real empathy and a delightful moment of sharing.
And yet, while this is true, how often do we experience this in our world? Do our societies foster this kind of mindset, or do we work to establish this mindset in our own lives? As young individuals involved in the interfaith movement, we are aware that the process of dialogue, clothed in a culture of Respect, involve knowing and learning other perspectives and views. But what about those we know – friends, family, coworkers, schoolmates – do we encourage a culture of Respect with them as well?
In order to truly live a life of Respect, we have to make it an integral part of our daily lives, an integral part of who we are. I believe that many of us are already working for this goal, and that our work is developing and nurturing a Respectful world.
The Abrahamic Youth Alliance, and any interfaith initiative, is built upon the foundation of Respect. Without Respect, dialogue would not exist. We would not break free from the molds of our own lives and our own worlds and truly understand a different perspective.
In the end, we must ensure that, in all encounters, we strive to Respect – to know, to feel, to breathe, to live, to love as another world. In this, we not only come to know more about the world, but more about ourselves. Everyone loses in a world where Respect falls by the wayside, but no one loses in a world full of Respect. Let us all strive to grow in Respect.
Peter Dziedzic (Chicago, Illinois, USA)