Our one great need
Imagine how a few kind words can light up another person’s day.
The librarian was cold and arrogant when Patrick approached her for assistance. Unperturbed, he remained courteous, and when he got his book, he was genuinely grateful: “Ma’am,” he said, “you have such an interesting job. You help students like me a lot. Thank you very much!”
The librarian was silent for a while. Then she smiled, and in a suddenly friendly tone told Patrick about the length of time she had been working as a librarian. The student must have made her feel that she was, after all, a kindly, respectable person, rather than the automaton some library visitors must have made her feel to be.
Simple gestures of respect can sow seeds of goodwill with untold value in the hearts of appreciative folk. The respect we give and receive, as well as our self-respect, affirms our human identity.
Respect is giving others the dignity they deserve as human beings, regardless of age, gender, physical looks, calling, race, religion, political persuasion, and socioeconomic status. A gem of a virtue, respect is made up of various facets of kindness, courtesy, politeness and considerate words.
Teaching our children the high moral value of respect can only be effective when parents, teachers, church ministers and public servant-leaders set good examples.
The first of God’s commandments promises: “Honor your father and mother so that you will live a long time in the land that the Lord your God is going to give you.” (Exodus 20:12)
Some young people, however, have yet to imbibe the value of respect for elders. A sample incident: A group of teenagers were walking behind an elderly couple. The boys tried to get past them but couldn’t because the sidewalk was narrow. One of them thought of easing their impatience by mimicking the way the old lady was limping. His companions roared in boisterous laughter.
A disrespectful attitude stems from bad breeding, pride, frustration, envy or anger. Some people who suffer from a feeling of insecurity or inferiority use insolent words or behavior as an armor to feel superior and in control. Disrespect often conveys prejudice and discrimination.
Ruth Reichl, a noted restaurant critic, wielded so much influence such that restaurants she visited treated her like royalty. One time, wanting to know how a particular restaurant would receive an insignificant-looking customer, she dressed as an aging, plain-looking woman. The restaurant staff gave her a taste of how it was to be marginalized: They made her wait a long while to be seated and served, and ignored some of her requests. This story is told in her book “Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise.”
Many of the world’s conflicts are caused by disrespect. This human vice has ruined marriages, families, friendships, alliances and other forms of relationship.
“Without respect,” Confucius wondered, “what is there to distinguish between men and beasts?”
Disrespect begets disrespect. A breakdown of civility can create a culture of oppression and violence.
In a civil society, we can disagree on many issues and still use tact and respectful ways of presenting or receiving dissenting views. Values education underscoring respect for diversity is crucial to the promotion of nonviolence and peace, according to the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Most Filipinos use the terms “po” and “opo” and the traditional gesture “mano po” in expressing deference to elders and even strangers. In this age of electronic communication, these may be viewed as outdated and dispensable. But what a refreshing relief to hear many of the liberal-thinking millennials still using these words of respect and perpetuating their value.
There is yet hope that respect as a trait will make Filipinos more Filipino—and our country more peaceful and stable.
Think of the light that the gem of respect can shine on a world of darkened values. It’s really still a promising world for a human race that nurtures this one great need to give and receive respect.
Prosy Badiola Torrechante, 70, is a grandmother of three.
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