Respect. Aretha Franklin sang about it, but has our modern culture forgotten how to show it? “Just a little bit?” Frequently we see it played out that when two people have differences, each is quick to demonize the other side. Insults, accusations, arguments and hatred are thrown back and forth in a game where there will be no winners. In today’s society, demonstration of mutual respect is sadly found to be lacking in politics, in neighborhoods, even in families. There’s certainly a better way for us to exist as members of civilized society.

Too bad we all couldn’t get down to the basics and follow the Golden Rule. Many religions teach a version of this common-sense virtue.

For example, in Hindu, the guidance goes back to ~3000 years B.C. from the Vedic tradition of India….

“This is the sum of duty. Do not unto others that which would cause you pain if done to you.” Mahabharata 5:1517

Or as Confucius said in ~500 B.C….

“Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” Analects 15:23

This has got to be Our Big God’s all time favorite way for each of us to behave.

From the video clips we see on the news, we are not doing so well at treating others as we’d want to be treated. Maybe we can blame the media because conflict gets attention and sells more than comradery. Yet, all we appear to be doing is stirring up intolerance. Two groups, standing at odds without anyone willing to be a bridge to find commonalities and ways to work together, doesn’t tend to lead to progress.

Several years ago, I attended a meeting where John Dingell Jr. was speaking. He served in the US Congress from 1955 to 2015. Someone asked him what was the biggest change he had observed from when he first started in Congress. I recall him describing the tight knit family feel in his early years. Party affiliation was less of a factor when it came to who socialized with whom. Dingell said people would get to know one another, their spouses, their children. They would visit each other’s homes and have meals together. This spirit of caring for one another could carry over into debates held on the House Floor regarding the best decisions to make for the country. Now, instead, there is marked party division. There is less effort taken to seek out common ground.

People want “their way”, which they think to be the “right way”, or it’s “no way”. The trouble is that in today’s complex world, as was the case years ago, there are big problems to solve. We need smart people with influence to come together to determine the proper path forward. On a global level, we need to find solutions for the betterment of mankind. The world is not as big as it used to be. We are all interconnected and what each part does has ramifications that are felt more immediately across country lines and oceans wide. We don’t need immature power plays, threats and intimidation. We need to listen. Hearing different points of view and being able to debate and discuss the best course of action can lead to transformation.

Recently, I read an article called “The Art of Arguing” by Caleb Jenkins (Fowlerville News and Views, January 20, 2019). The author talked about the difference between arguing and debating. He said, in a debate, “two or more differing viewpoints are discussed respectfully and factually.” He shared good advice on the subject(s). It seems clear that we would be moving in the right direction if we brought respect and honesty into our conversations.

Differences between individuals that are handled disrespectfully can harm relationships. Clashes between groups can ignite violent emotions, with people getting hurt. Showing respect for one another demonstrates strength in character and morals. Putting R-E-S-P-E-C-T into practice would be an excellent start to following the Golden Rule. Set a high standard of behavior. Let’s not step down to a lower level.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

Respectfully show God you can be the bigger and the better person. Pray over the situations. Ask God to grant restraint, patience to listen, grace, wisdom and discernment. Ask God for answers. Ask that you are given the strength of character needed to show respect generously and indiscriminately. “Sock it to me” (Aretha Franklin, Respect, Album: I Never Loved a Man The Way I Loved You, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. Universal Music Publishing Group, 1967).