We have no reason to be cruel, no need to prove our strength. We are courteous even to those that challenge us. We can command respect by first freely giving it to others.
The virtue of respect is a learnt one. Respect means that you accept somebody for who they are, even when they’re different from you or you don’t agree with them. Respect in society and relationships builds feelings of trust, safety, and wellbeing.
Is the virtue of respect in deficit? If so, does that mean we are seeing more disrespect towards each other? And if that’s true - what does disrespect look like in society? As I see it there are several societal challenges facing us that rely on respect being prevalent.
1. Respecting each other 2. Respecting women at home, at work, in relationships 3. Respect yourself
Respecting each other We’ve all been on the receiving end of unnecessary and inappropriate verbal abuse and it’s not pleasant, in fact it’s ugly and can affect us, often for days afterwards. A large Australian Insurance company collated data in 2020 on road rage and aggression towards other drivers. During the past 12 months two thirds, 65% of Australian drivers say other road users have shouted at, cursed, or made rude gestures to them or others with them. We seem to be dishing out the abuse too with more than 4 in ten drivers, (45%) admitting to shouting, cursing, or making rude gestures to other drivers.
This road rage/aggressive driving study was conducted with input by Dr Amanda Stephens who is a Research Fellow at the Monash University Accident Research Centre.
Low self-esteem, relational issues, work stress and being a product of your environment all influence behaviour. Bountiful explanations await those in search of the ‘why don’t we respect each other’. Verbally abusing someone might begin because of what’s going on in our own lives, but as soon as you verbally assault another, we can inadvertently set of a chain of events which have, in some instances, ended in tragedy.
It starts with taking ownership of our own behaviour. I know I’ve been guilty of allowing my emotions to boil over and reacting in a manner I’ve later been embarrassed or worse ashamed of.
My Martial Arts practice has a heavy focus on respect. As practitioners we begin and end every lesson with Rei. We also Rei to our opponent before sparing. It’s common use means “bow” but it has a deeper meaning of thanks, gratitude, manners, etiquette and so on.
Learning respect through my own practice of the Arts and teaching it to my young students reminds me daily of the criticality this virtue has in our society.
The statement ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’ is attributed to Gandhi. If we each can adjust our focus on how we treat our fellow citizens, it’s a decent start. Tolerance and respect are a conscious choice and by having this presence of mind to pay attention to our own reactions we present the gift of respect to others.
Respecting Women – at home, at work, in relationships. As recently as 2018 the Australian Government funded the Australian Human Rights Commission to undertake a landmark National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces. The inquiry, jointly announced by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, and the then Minister for Women, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, was the first of its kind in the world.
The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 was introduced here by the Australian Government. However, the rate of change has been disappointingly slow writes Kate Jenkins in The Commissioners Forward. Shockingly two in five women (39%) and just over one in four men (26%) have experienced sexual harassment at work.
“Sexual harassment is not a women’s issue: it is a societal issue, which every Australian, and every Australian workplace, can contribute to addressing. Workplace sexual harassment is not inevitable. It is not acceptable. It is preventable”. – Kate Jenkins
With the removal of policy ambiguity and a whole of community model Respect@work now in place, we expect to see change and more importantly less victims. The report also recommends changes in education of our children. The Government agrees and so young people will receive school-based education on respectful relationships that is age-appropriate and evidence-based.
Consider some of these phrases we’ve grown up around.
Thought or said … What a boy might think…
“Man up” Men need to be tough
“Stop acting like a girl I’m too soft
“Who wears the pants”? I should be in control of the relationship
“She has you under the thumb” She’s in control of me
Thought or said … What a girl might think…
“She’s such a bossy boots” I shouldn’t be assertive.
“She’s a feisty one” I shouldn’t have opinion / stand up for myself
“Why are you being so uptight?” I shouldn’t have boundaries.
“She’s a bit of a tomboy”
I shouldn’t be myself / I shouldn’t play the sports that I like / I should look more feminine / I shouldn’t dress the way that I like / I am judged on my appearance.
Violence against women is totally unacceptable and the statistics are shocking. Globally an estimated 736 million women, almost one in three, have been subjected to intermate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence – or both, at least once in their lives (30% of women aged 15 and over) Men are the perpetrators in almost all cases.
In 2018 an estimated one in seven women had experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intermate partner or husband in the past 12 months.
You might be thinking that in Australia it’s not as bad as these “global’ statistics. You’d be wrong. One in three women over 15 years of age have experienced physical violence. One in six women have experienced sexual violence in this country.
It’s a hugely complex subject and I’m not an expert but I do know that Respect is a significant contributor. Teaching our young boys what’s acceptable behaviour and what’s not in a relationship with a girl has fundamental consequences into adulthood. I know it’s not that simple to resolve and I’m not for a moment suggesting tolerance and respect are the only answers, but I do know it’s a damn good start.
Respecting yourself Self-respect means you accept yourself for who you are, with all your strengths and weaknesses. It’s the foundation of how you will treat yourself. This matters greatly because life presents us many challenges, how we react to life’s adversities has a lot to do with how we see ourselves. When you can accept yourself for who you are it’s far more likely that you won’t perceive yourself as a victim. In doing so others will see you differently too. We know that our thoughts control our emotions, which drive our beliefs, they in turn control our actions.
Having a strong sense of self-respect means you are more likely to be aligned to your values and principles, you are less likely to alter or adjust your values to accommodate someone else. Being your authentic self and being accepted for that is a solid foundation for any relationship.
Respecting yourself also means looking after your body, mind, and spirit. Your nutrition and hydration the exercise you take, getting enough sleep and taking care of your emotions all matter greatly. We are tough on ourselves, our worst critics, our hardest task masters. We wouldn’t treat our worst enemy like we do ourselves in most cases. Respecting your health and wellbeing requires routine, routine requires discipline and now you are getting a 10x compound with creates a sense of accomplishment and on it goes.
We all can make an impact in this world. It starts with how we treat ourselves, our loved ones, friends and colleagues and strangers. Respect is a foundational virtue in our society and more of it will only improve the world we live in.
Next week the Bushido virtue Heroic Courage
To your continued future health, success, and happiness