March 5, 2010: All generations can benefit from ‘unconditional respect,’ by Crystal Paredes

March 5, 2010 by

“I treat others how they treat me.”  So said a young man I know when asked recently about his thoughts on respect.

I questioned him, even going so far as correcting what I thought might have been an error.  I hoped he meant, “I treat others how I want to be treated.”  We all know this is the golden rule.

He was quick to respond that he meant what he said the first time.

Quite honestly, in my work over the last 10 years with young men and women, I am seeing more of a generation gap when it comes to the topic of respect.

The general rules that apply to my generation and those older are that you show respect for your elders. You also show respect for certain positions (police officers and teachers, for example) even if you dislike the person. These rules have worked well for generations.

As a child, I showed respect knowing someday I would grow to an age where others would show me respect and maybe hold a position where I could demand it.

Here’s the rub: The younger generations are being taught that in order to get respect you must give it. I know this because I have taught it to many.  It is a great concept and one intended to teach children to make the first move in showing respect, but they don’t always do that.

In addition, a problem occurs when concepts such as “respect must be earned” are floating around to muddy the water.

The older generations are expecting respect and sometimes demanding it and if not given, judgment on the younger generation is quickly doled out.   The younger generation is waiting to be shown respect, even when they are the ones in the wrong.  They are looking for that example from adults first because they have been taught that respect must first be given in order to be received.  When it isn’t first given or it hasn’t been earned in their estimation, they then have a logical excuse to not give any back.  Thus, “I treat others how they treat me.”

Is it starting to make your head swim a little?  It does mine.  Here is my suggestion.

Several years ago, I was introduced to the concept of “unconditional respect” through the book “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.  This is a book for married couples but the concept of unconditional respect could be translated to all mankind.

It’s not an easy concept because it is so foreign in our culture.

What is unconditional respect?  It is the ability to treat each other respectfully without conditions: without preconceived expectations, without debating if the person has earned it or not, without judging age, race, social status, disability, etc.

If we could each implement this concept in our own lives first by way of our facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and the words/actions we choose, we could role model it for future generations.  Our social climate would rapidly improve.

Starting today, I will show respect to everyone I meet regardless of their age, no matter how they have wronged me, whether respect is returned, and even if I fail to agree with them or the choices they make — not because of who they are but because it is who I am.  I will show respect to everyone in order to show reverence to God for each life he has created.


— Crystal Paredes is the Children’s Minister at First Christian Church in Concordia. She also works with the Domestic Violence Association of Central Kansas.

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