Hello, how are you doing? I’ve been thinking about how I learned to respect everyone. Ming and I had a cool conversation about it the other day in the car.
“Why are you so respectful?” I asked Ming. It seems too rare. “Did something happen, or has the respectfulness just always been inside of you?”
“The respectfulness was always inside of me,” he said. “I grew up in Berkeley and knew many kinds of people.”
Hmm, lots of folks grow up with diversity but don’t turn out respectful to all.
“Was your mom really respectful to everyone?” I asked Ming.
“Yes,” he said. He told me about Boy Scouts and diversity in school.
“Yeah, but did you ever make fun of developmentally disabled people?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “There was a place with a lot of developmentally disabled people. They were just people.”
“Wow,” I said. “I think of myself as very respectful. But I think I made fun of a developmentally disabled person when I was a kid. I was doing like everyone around me. They were making fun of a developmentally disabled person, so I just went along.”
“Hmm,” Ming said.
“Yeah, I didn’t know how to be social, so I would partly do what the other kids were doing,” I said. “Autism thing.”
“So you were just always respectful,” I said.
“Yes,” Ming said.
“Well, I had to become respectful,” I said.
My dad carried racism inside of him. I had to choose which parent to side with, when I was little, then had to learn to listen to myself, the truth inside me.
“It was a lot of work,” I continued. “But once I understood that some people deserve respect, and then much later I learned that I deserve respect, I had to extrapolate out, that all people deserve respect. If I deserve respect and I have empathy…it was just a matter of time, until I respected everyone.”
It’s funny how some of the people I most love have no respect for politicians, cops, racist people… The people who are most difficult in our lives and to the whole world are people who think they don’t need to be respectful to everyone, right? I don’t want to be like them.
Respect doesn’t mean I have to marry someone, give them a ton of resources, or even listen to them very much. It’s more of an attitude. I might think someone has reprehensible values and behavior, but they’re still a person. They’re still a being. The spark of life in me that animates me, giving me creativity and desire, is the same spark of life that’s in them. They could be my mother, father, grandparent, child, nibling. We’re all in the same family.
And people can change–I’ve seen it. So being a Nazi or la migra or a KKK person could just be temporary.
Lots of violence happens in the world because people think there are exceptions to the rule of respect. They were not respected, so they don’t need to respect. They are smarter or richer or whatever, so they don’t need to respect. The world is full of meanies, so they need to meanie first and don’t need to respect. I’m not going to be that way. I don’t want to do violence.
Thank you for hearing how I learned to respect everyone. This is an important topic because–what if everyone learned to respect everyone? Wow, what a world that would be.
Sometimes I wish I could make an org that just helps people learn respect skills to build better cultures and societies. Better communities, families, and relationships too.
Respect is so basic and beautiful. Love can be confusing and mean vastly different things to different folx and in different contexts. Respect is more polite to talk about.
Love can make people feel weird because it can be related to sex. I hope sex involves respect also. But maybe you see what I mean. Respect isn’t as connected to sex, in the minds of most. But consent is about respect, right? I hope so.