Cultivating Respect—Because We’re All on This Earthly Trip Together

Genuine respect

I’m talking genuine respect for fellow human beings. This is not something anyone can learn, pay for, or even work for and then get an oversized piece of paper and a funny hat with a tassel on it, all saying this person now has genuine respect for others.

See, I was surprised one time when a real-life friend and I were talking during one of the recent dag-blasted elections. Okay, fine, we were, ahem, arguing. Politely, but still.

And my friend asserted that the person we were talking about couldn’t possibly have meant any harm in the situation we were discussing because this person was smart. She had a doctorate, my friend said! 

I was at a dead end in that discussion. Someone’s doctorate doesn’t mean one itsy bitsy thing to me when it comes to having anything whatsoever to do with whether or not someone treats fellow humans with respect. Advanced degrees have no effect on character. Or at least not that I’ve noticed.

Education and “intelligence” are no guarantee of character

Another time an internet friend told me with absolute certainty that the people were smarter where he was from in the pacific northwest than in the south, where I’m from, which, he said, is proven by the number of bookstores in the pacific northwest compared to the number of churches in the south.

This person wasn’t being sarcastic. He doubled down, no matter how much I tried to point out his arrogance. 

I heard someone in a meeting quite recently say, “without naming names,” that the followers of a certain politician still believe women should be subservient to their husband. I wanted to ask how this person knew this (because I’ve observed that this blanket statement isn’t true), but that would have been just as inappropriate as the weakly framed statement in the first place. And besides, it was just more arrogance.

Then, during some very recent primaries, I saw something online about how people in “educated” areas vote more “intelligently” than in less “educated” areas. I have those words in quotes due to the fact that whoever wrote what I was looking at was attributing a certain set of criteria and belief to what “educated” and “intelligent” actually means.

But you know what?

I’m to the point now where I’m starting to see a helluva lot of holes in words like “educated” and “intelligent.” It’s starting to impress me less and less when people have doctorates or go to Yale or have “important” jobs or high-paying white-collar jobs or what-the-hell-ever. 

Real respect doesn’t get set aside for a good joke

Being a pole dancer as of three years ago, I’ve now crossed paths with actual strip-club workers, not just women who are artistic or athletic pole dancers like me. Women who work on a pole in a bar for a living. And one thing I hear is that blue collar clubs are just as, if not more, profitable than the swankier chain clubs out there now. And somehow I’m not surprised. These are who the arrogant people would probably call “not very educated voters.”

There used to be a guy in my neighborhood who did light construction work off and on. I’m not sure how far he went in school. We hired him to do some things for us a couple of times, and he was reliable and did the work as we wanted it done. 

One nice Saturday afternoon my sweetheart picked up subs for the three of us to have for lunch on the front porch. While we ate, our neighbor told us a little about where he was from and where he’d lived, how he worked wherever he went and tried to pay his way. 

He told us how he’d had a lot of hard times along the way, living on the street and in homeless shelters, and that he’d lived for a while in an abandoned house in a city up north and then in a boxcar after that. He told us about finding enough to eat in various places. It was interesting. We listened to him, and then we all finished lunch and went back to what we were working on. 

So what am I going to now?

Not respect this man I’ve talked to, listened to, and even had a meal with? Joke one day about hard times and rock bottom and eating canned food on stale crackers and living in a trailer? When people really do live like this and don’t have to be drug addicts or white trash or criminals to do so? That this is actually life for someone? That it’s not a joke or something they’re climbing out of?

Respecting the dignity of every human

In my church we say a sort of group prayer when someone is baptized. It’s our way of saying that we’ll support this person (usually it’s a baby) in their life by way of our own example. One of the lines we recite in unison is that we’ll “respect the dignity of every human being.” I find this so powerful and so meaningful, and I get chills whenever we say it. I think about “respecting the dignity of every human being” often, and you’ll find it laced throughout these blog posts and my emails.

It’s just that I’m really, really tired of sorting people into “good” and “not good” because of outer appearance. assumptions, and made-up projections.

We all know that “inner” is more important than “outer,” yet we still go around like snobs. We still look down on whoever it is we arbitrarily decide has lower quality brain cells than our own. 

And society at this point is hellbent on getting us into raging hot culture wars with each other. Taking sides, laying blame, ruining relationships, avoiding “other” people, walling ourselves off, and even advocating for banishment and eradication to some degree or another.

It’s sick, really. And it goes against our nature—we’re social, not anti-social, but this sickness makes us mighty anti-social. And before we know it, we’ve failed to respect our fellow humans. Again.

It’s time to shi* or get off the pot

I believe we can—and should—do a whole lot better than falling for the “we’re good, they’re bad” trap. 

And if we really do want the good in the world that we say we want, we’ve got to shit or get off the pot at some point. We’ve got to go ahead and be the good we want starting now, and a good place to start is by simply respecting one another.

So what are we waiting for?

Someone else to go first?

Someone else to tell us to be good humans and to respect one another, even when we don’t like someone?

Someone to tell us it’s okay to let down our judgment and just be kind and nice and loving, in spite of what we think we know about people? 

What’s it going to take for us to use our immense power to light up the world with good energy instead of continuing to criticize and complain and thus continue to spread crappy energy around?

And just a reminder: good energy means looking for what to praise instead of what to bitch about. It’s obvious, but how do we not just keep bitching when there’s so much to bitch about?

Here’s how—while we sure can look at what there is to bitch about, we can just as well, and just as easily, look for what to praise.

Because things to praise are there. It’s so simple that it’s like Dorothy’s red shoes—she had the power she needed the whole time. And her friends had the love, courage, and intelligence all along.

It’s just that someone told us we don’t have any power of our own, and we went along with that.

But we don’t have to go along with it. We can believe otherwise. We can believe in our own capacity for good—and not just talk about it, but be about it, too.

We can see the news, be concerned, then keep looking. There’s always more to the story. And there are always more stories, too. But you know the good ol’ mercenary media and their one-track mind. Jeez, you’d think they’re desperate or something.

We’re on this road trip together

And we can respect the dignity of every human. It may be a work in progress, but it’s certainly not complicated. 

Below are three things I’ve written along these lines. Please take a look. 

How to Decide What Not to Do 

11 Tips to Make This Election Season Bearable 

The Right and the Wrong Side of History 

So look, I’m through with riding the blame train. I’m through with acting as though some of us are better, smarter, more educated, more deserving, more evolved, more “right” than others. It’s all bullshit.

I’ve moved on.

I choose to believe that we’re all in this together, that we’re all on this trip together, and that we really can be the people we want to see more of in our time together on this island home we share. And I suggest with cultivating respect for the dignity of every human being, whether or not we agree with them or like them or whatever else.

Peace, shalom, namaste, and gentle blessings to you.


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