Learning to respect
On her spiritual journey, Shivi Verma has found that respecting ourselves and others is our dharma. And the rest will just take care of itself.
Growing up, I often came across the statement, ‘Respect is not demanded but commanded.’ I found this idea very daunting. How does one command respect? Did one have to become cold, authoritative, withdrawn, and speak in a stentorian voice in order to gain respect? This seemed like a tall order, and I did not know how to be all of the above.
When I looked around, I found that respect for others was enforced upon me by my culture and surroundings. We were supposed to respect our elders, teachers, and seniors, and not talk back or contradict them.
I abided by it, but mostly unwillingly, as I rarely found anything worthy of respect in those I was supposed to hold in high regard. No admiration crossed my heart and mind upon meeting older people, with the exception of my school principal and my parents. While my principal epitomised authority, command, and an impeccable character, my parents stood for integrity in words and actions. I recognised that most people I knew lacked these qualities. I also observed that even though the majority of the people wanted to be respected, they were unwilling to give the same treatment to others. I noticed that people wanted to gain respect by putting others down and establishing their own superiority through clever mind games.
Then there were others who sought respect by fitting into society’s expectations from them. Yet, I hardly found anyone genuinely respecting the other person. People would be outwardly sweet and respectful to each other but critical of them behind their backs. It was a ludicrous situation. Each one was dependent on others for respect and value, did all possible things to gain them, yet always fell short of being actually respected.
As for me, I did not find anyone respecting me either. No matter what I did or said, people always found something ridiculous about it and did not shy away from telling me so. This made me lose all faith in myself. I did not feel valued, respected, or acknowledged by anyone.
However, spiritual seeking sorted out many things for me—respect being one of them. As I grew, I realised that it was not my business at all to command respect from others. It was a monumental task which required too much investment of energy and thought. I was not willing to do this kind of work. All that I needed to do was respect myself wholly and completely, and that was enough. How others viewed me was not my problem. There was no onus on others to respect me. But it was definitely my responsibility to value myself wholeheartedly and not entertain disrespectful behaviour. It was my business to set my boundaries and not accept their breaching by anyone. And it was my job to respect others for who they were, regardless of whether they displayed a high level of integrity or not. I needed to respect others because, as human beings, we are inherently deserving of respect. Respect has the power to germinate good self-worth and self-respect in others, which makes them do noble deeds. With this awareness, the burden attached to gaining respect dropped away. I began to feel free, light, and liberated. Life had begun to make sense finally.
Editor of Life Positive, Shivi Verma is a devotee who found all her answers in loving God passionately.
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