12 Days of Kindness
There are five days left in this year and, if you haven’t already been overrun with flashbacks, consider yourself lucky. It is the time of the year when it seems like everyone and every media outlet are talking retrospectives – the best of the year in everything from fashion to electronics, music to toys, etc. It is that time of year when it seems As though we should worship “the good ole days”.
We seldom think about the concept of retrospection having anything to do with the word “respect”. Its history or etymology dates back to the Latin “respectus” which translates as “looking back”. The more modern definition dates back to the late sixteenth century. It was probably the result of someone’s retrospection and consideration of another’s past behavior but somewhere around the late 1580’s, the word came to mean a feeling of regard or esteem based upon the actions or attributes of a person rather than a way to look back or reflect on days gone by.
The term respect is a subject of great debate among philosophers and psychologists. A teenage driver respects the speed limit while also respecting his/her parents. Surely one is not exactly the same as another. Most agree that how we respect ourselves often determines the lives we lead and the choices we make.
It is most important to have self-respect but it is also important to respect others. The relationships we have in this world revolve around the respect we show others and how we live is based upon the respect we have for ourselves. In other words, the kindness we live towards ourselves is mirrored in the kindness with which we treat others. The person who dislikes him or herself will probably be equally as critical to those around them and being critical does not take one down a path populated with friends.
One of the first steps for respecting others and ourselves involves losing assumptions. When we let life teach us rather than assuming we have all the answers or know what another is thinking, then we open ourselves up to being free and create opportunities to learn. Sometimes the greatest way to be kind is to let the person be uniquely themselves without insisting they conform to our own ideas or standards. The lack of assumption usually leads to a heightened sense of dignity. When we let people be themselves, we give that which they are dignity. Feeling that you are entitled to have dignity is the foundation for a healthy self-esteem, both in us and in others.
When we show dignity to another we are also usually being fair. Injustices occur every day based upon someone’s assumptions and more times than not, those assumptions are flawed and faulty. Letting go of assumptions also means fairness will rule the day. We need to take the time to treat everyone equally and meet out the same justice to all, regardless of their position, race, creed, financial status, etc. Such fairness and dignity extended to all comes under the heading of good manners and correct etiquette. The use of derogatory language is again based upon flawed and ignorant assumptions which lead to discrimination. No one feels dignified or respected if they are the victim of discrimination.
Consideration is also a part of good manners as is punctuality. Sometimes we think our time schedule is the most important in the world. Insisting others follow our schedule is permissible every now and then. It is not respectful to make everyone dance to our own tune and nothing else. Letting people explain themselves is also a great kindness. When we listen to others, truly listen to them, we are giving them our attention, our time, and letting them know they are valued.
You might have noticed that nothing I have mentioned as a way to show another person respect costs money. To show kindness to someone by respecting them requires no financial outlay at all. It is not only a gift of kindness that we share with others; it might just be the very best gift we can give ourselves.
Life coach Steve Maraboli explains it this way: ““How would your life be different if…You stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day…You look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.”
Yesterday I challenged you to share a smile. Today’s challenge in this the twelve days of kindness is to live two acts of kindness – one to another person and one to yourself. It might be letting go of some guilt or simply being on time for a movie date. Whatever it is, remember that respect is a two-way street. It is a gift we give ourselves whenever we look back and give respect to another.