I went to a karaoke competition once, where one of the competitors decided to sing Aretha Franklin’s Respect. He had never heard the song before. When the trope arrived at R-E-S-P-E-C-T, he just sang it out with all of his heart—RESPECT! RESPECT!—almost as though he was begging for it in his own life. I knew him from afar—he was a grade younger than me, and was often bullied for being smart, ambitious, nerdy. The fact that he didn’t know the words somehow made the song more powerful. He opened his heart and asked of others to give him what he lacked: RESPECT.
Like my bullied 6th grade classmate, all most of us want is to be heard, and loved in the forms that mean most to us. Regardless of your prefered flavor, respect is a commonality that binds us to one another. It’s a core value that is sorely lacking in our world. I am going to rebuke all of us, myself included. We don’t know what respect means, we don’t know how to utilize it, and we aren’t sure that it matters enough to care.
It matters enough to care.
(In the video portion of this lesson, we broke down the first step in respect—self respect, based on a relationship with a higher power. I welcome you to check it out if you haven’t done so yet. I’ll wait.)
Hey! You’re back! Awesome. Onwards:
People are mirrors that reflect you.
You are a mirror that reflects G-d and G-dliness that has been instilled in you.
Other people share that. At our core, soul levels, we’re all the same.
Respect is a connecting tool that has been lost in translation. I find it very difficult to respect people who don’t think and act like me—I’m in this to learn a lesson too. Only moments ago, before I sat down to pen this piece, I found myself in a full on bashing attack of someone who’s behavior I disagree with. I know I’m allowed to disagree, but reducing another human being to a nail to be hammered into the ground isn’t cool. Do onto others and all that jazz, right?
Respect is a prereq for using values correctly. Let’s loop it back to last week’s lesson as proof: If I recognize and tap into my relationship with the divine, and respect myself as a person who is capable of attaining a higher power, then I will use my values to build connections in the world, and live out my G-dly purpose.
I want to emphasize that respecting someone doesn’t mean you become a carpet, or that you leave go of important, healthy boundaries. What I’m talking about here is a basic return to human dignity.
Once we learn to respect ourselves and our connection to a higher source, we can mirror the feelings towards others. It’s not easy. It’s really, really, really hard. But it’s worth it.
This doesn’t only apply to strangers. This applies to your mother, your uncle, siblings, friends, roommates, pets, the mailman. The people you create your world are the ones you deserve—and often lack—respect the most.
So, how does one connect to the higher source within others? I offer you my six-step takeaway:
- Remove judgement. Look them in the eye when you’re talking to them. Get close enough to see them.
- Listen. Don’t speak.
- Drink in their words. Swallow. Hold.
- Dare to open your heart to them.
- Look for the higher qualities in them that exist in all human beings. Let your self-importance go. If you respect yourself, you’ll find it in your heart to respect them.
- Repeat as necessary.
With the month of Elul steadily coming to an end (cue the Twilight Zone theme song), I invite you to use this lesson as a way to jumpstart your focus on the new year. How can you learn to respect the divine within yourself and others? Will you use love and awe to build or destroy?
I hope you choose to build.