Respect is a two way street

Fred Rogers once said, “All we’re ever asked to do in this life is to treat our neighbor exactly as we would hope to be treated ourselves. That’s our ultimate responsibility.”

Interesting how Rogers thinks it’s the human race’s “responsibility” to be kind to others. While I have a great deal of admiration for the man, I have a feeling many find being mindful and respectful of others more of a chore than a responsibility.

Today you’d be hard pressed to identify those willing to buy into Rogers’s notion that it’s “our ultimate responsibility” to do unto others. The statement however does bring to mind a virtue that lately has vanished quicker than your average pop princess – the art of respect.

Respect is about understanding and accepting the differences that exist all around us, whether we agree with them or not. But how can we expect society to be mindful of others – to “treat our neighbor exactly as we would hope to be treated ourselves” when we can’t even practice the same belief in our own lives?

Today so many of us sit on the sidelines while we let the “intellects” of the world ramble on their soapboxes proclaiming they have the answers to everything. They use their so called “knowledge” of the world to make others feel inadequate, unappreciated and disrespected – a behavior commonly found in those with low self-esteems and high egos.

But why should anyone be made to feel as though what they have to say doesn’t matter? No one person has ever been bestowed all the answers in life and no one ever will. So why then do so many people deem themselves an authority? There’s an old saying “too much knowledge is a dangerous thing” – especially when improperly used.

But maybe it’s me. I mean who am I to expect the world to think about anyone but themselves. How naive, right? Being respectful of others requires work. It means giving up the dominance and power we hold over one another.

But some day we’re all going to turn around and seek the respect of someone that’s going to look the other way, dismissing us. It might be our mates, it might even be our children. Maybe then we’ll know what it feels like to never give a damn about anyone but ourselves. If Rogers’ statement is true “to treat our neighbor exactly as we would hope to be treated”, there must be a lot of people in the world who haven’t yet found a way to respect themselves.


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