If you didn’t already know, I take Karate lessons two or three times per week. My wife and children take lessons as well, so it’s a great way for me to stay physically active while spending time with them. Also, I get to learn a new skill, meet new people and build new friendships. That’s like four areas of Ziglar’s Wheel of Life all at once. Look at me, being all efficient.
Last weekend, I pre-tested for my next belt rank. I’ve proven a basic understanding of the physical techniques necessary to progress. Before I can receive my new belt at next week’s test, though, I have to complete a written test. Part of that is a half page essay on a subject determined by the rank I am advancing to. For the next belt, the subject is ‘Respect.’
And I also committed myself to writing a new blog post every week. Guess what I’m doing. That’s right. Being all efficient again.
Respect (v) – to hold in esteem or honor; to show regard or consideration for.
As with many aspects of good behavior, we’d like to have a codified list of what it looks like to show respect. If we could quickly flip through a checklist, marking off the dos and the don’ts, we would know whether or not we were actually being sufficiently respectful. That’d be awesome.
It would also be wrong.
The problem is that our behavior isn’t the quantum of our external actions. It is the expression of our internal values. That is to say: We are truly only respectful of things we know to be important at our core. We respect what we value.
And we need to start with ourselves. Allow me to quote a great philosopher:
Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power.
– Clint Eastwood
I am important. My life is important. That might sound like pride, but it isn’t. I’m not saying I’m perfect, or even good. However, I still get the privilege of breathing for another day, so I still have something to do. That’s true of you, too.
So, in each area of our lives, we have to consider the implications of our choices. What does this or that action say about how important we believe ourselves to be? If we can’t accept that each day we exist has value, then we won’t ever have the proper respect for what we have been given.
And that makes it hard to respect others.
Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized.
– Albert Einstein
It’s hard because when we deny ourselves of respect, we can and will use the same rationalizations to deny others of it, too. See, if I’m not important, then you certainly aren’t. Respect becomes a commodity that has to be earned.
Worse, if and when we find a person who we think earns our respect, we’ll raise them over us. We’ll overvalue their existence. We risk idolizing them, and giving them more authority than they can manage. They’re doomed to fall from such a perch, because they aren’t actually perfect either.
Respecting ourselves first gives us proper perspective on respecting others. It helps us to value our relationships as responsibilities we’re given to honor. It leads us to be more gracious to others when they stumble and need help to stand. It guides us to guard our lives with more care when we are considering who we associate with, and how much authority to give them.
We respect what we value.
Once we get that, we realize that we don’t need anyone to give us a checklist. The list we want will write itself.
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