How Do We Respect Others and Ourselves?

Respect of Individuality

“We ask of others to follow our dreams, to be like us. Why?” This is the inspirational quote about life that begins the verse for this image in my book, Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing. It is a question I have asked myself for years, having always been compared to others and expected to be like them. My dreams were thwarted in favor of another’s. This, along with the denigration of who I was, gnawed away at my very soul. It degraded my self-esteem and my self-image. It set the stage for a very difficult life and it was one of the reasons for my heavy drinking, as I tried to numb out feelings of inadequacy.

One of the most important things we can do in life is to respect and celebrate one’s individuality. This type of recognition helps that person flourish and grow to their intended heights. To respect another’s uniqueness is to acknowledges a Creator’s handiwork.  It recognizes another as a Being in this world, just like you or me.

Often, it seems, people are not recognized for their individuality. Like the first line of this verse, people are asked to be like us. This may be because we fear those who are different than us. It could also be a reflection of our own inadequacy or feelings of low esteem. We tend to negate others when we are not feeling very good about ourselves, in an effort to build ourselves up. Of course, this is done at the expense of another. If we are having difficulty respecting others, perhaps it is time for a self-appraisal, a time to honestly look at why we are unable to respect that person.

Having performed my own inventory as a part of my sobriety and having grown and healed some as a result, I have realized it is not necessary for me to be like others. I have learned it is important for me to be the individual I am, to let what is inside shine for the world to see. In fact, I now realize it is my job, if you will, to follow my dreams.  It is my responsibility to be the individual that I am, to do what I need to do to increase my own self-respect.

Ah, being responsible for my own esteem, my own individuality…  What does this mean? It means I need to focus my efforts on learning to respect myself in my actions toward myself, as well as the way in which I talk to myself. If I do not respect myself, how can I think that others will respect me? And if I am respecting myself, I will give off that energy, people will feel it, and I will attract respect.

Does that mean that if we run across someone who does not respect themselves then that is a reason to disrespect them also? Actually, it means we need to extend even more understanding, love, and compassion to that wounded person. It means we show them respect until they can find it for themselves.

How is your level of respect for yourself? Have you found it, or are you still searching for it? As you assess how you treat others, do you treat them with respect for who they are, regardless of how different from you they may be, regardless of whether you approve of what they’re doing? That gets into judgment, which is our next topic…

Let’s celebrate the talents and skills and differences of each other, encouraging others and ourselves to greatness, daring to stand out, to be unique, to be individual!


How Does Compassion Lead to Forgiveness

How does compassion lead to forgiveness, you might wonder. Compassion is defined by Webster as sorrow felt for another’s suffering or troubles, coupled with an urge to help in some way, deep sympathy. They also say pity, yet, I believe we don’t have to pity another in order to have compassion For me, it manifests as very soft and tender thoughts for another, often coupled with a deep knowingness of or wanting to understand one’s troubles so I can offer help of some sort.

Compassion leads to forgiveness when we recognize how we have done the very thing for which we are angry at or hurt by another. This powerful realization happened to me. I was doing a self-appraisal of all my relationships, and I recognizd I used to get drunk and yell at my partner at the time how worthless they were, that they wouldn’t amount to anything.

I was horrified to remember this! I didn’t mean those things I said. I was feeling badly about myself, which is what prompted the words in the first place. Then I realized they were the very words that were told to me as a child. I began to wonder if the person who uttered them to me also felt badly about himself at the time he yelled those words.

I felt compassion for myself, for the deep-seated feelings of worthlessness that led me to say these wounding words. Suddenly, I saw the man who said those words to me, as a suffering human being, hurting like I hurt, lashing out like I lashed out. I had great compassion for both of us, both wounded souls. I began to realize that I would like forgiveness in this situation, and believed that to be true for my perpetrator, as well. I softened  to both of us, and brought forth all the compassion I could muster. I understood why the words were said. They had nothing to do with me or my worth. Years of hurt and pain were washed away, as my compassion gave way to forgiveness.

So tell me, how does compassion lead to forgiveness in your life? Does it? Can it if you look with compassion?