In January’s column on “Respect,” I concluded that having respect for others cannot be legislated or mandated, but rather requires cultivation from within.
… not an easy task! And, to the extent we were not shown how by our parents and teachers in our formative years, the task is that much more difficult.
The challenge is further compounded, I believe, by the fact that self-respect is not recognized as the source from which we derive respect for others. We may be told to respect others, but are given no help at all in understanding self-respect. So we live our lives blaming ourselves and feeling guilty for behavior that is “only human,” and feeling disdain for others and their similarly human behaviors. The dictum that we must love and respect our neighbor is rendered almost meaningless.
Many of us go through life behaving as though self-respect means looking neat and clean and standing up straight, and that respect for others means being courteous and tolerant.
So why are we not taught self-respect first, if it is a prerequisite to learning respect for others? Perhaps because, in our culture, we are largely ignorant of what the self is. We equate it with ego, and we are taught (not very well these days) that ego/self-absorption is not a good thing. But we are far off the mark in our sense of the meaning of “self.”
Jesus’s insistence that he was both the “son of God” and the “son of Man” coupled with his teaching that we “can do all that he did and more,” tells me that we are, in essence, participants in both Divine selfhood and, in “the human condition.” We are taught that we are “made in the image and likeness of God,” but we do not study that teaching in depth… we do not take time to meditate on it; we do not allow this knowing, this realization, to guide our lives.
If we did, we would be in awe of our sacred self, and we would spend a lifetime realizing its manifestations. It is not an ego trip, but a divine manifestation. All the great spiritual leaders in history have understood and taught this essential lesson.
We are each one of the many ”faces of God” … one of the essential pieces in the gigantic jig-saw puzzle called Life… one of the “Leaves of Grass” necessary to create a lawn… Without each of our “selfs,” God is not complete, the jig-saw puzzle has a unique form missing, and the lawn is patchy.
When we come to appreciate this, and to respect our unique selfhood, warts and all, we are prepared to respect the unique selfhood of the others with whom we occupy this time and space.
Joe Mc Kay