compassion, empathy, kindness, RECK, respect

Do You See All People As Equal?

I grew up in a small Middle American town and it seemed like there was always a lot of emphasis placed on social hierarchy. There was a lot of discussion about who was from “good” families and who was from “bad” families. People also seemed to struggle to elevate their station within that social structure. It seemed like people compared themselves to one another a lot. There was a great deal of concern about who was better than whom and why. People were ranked by the size of their homes, the clothes they wore, the type of car they drove, and on and on and on.

After college, I moved to larger cities. There seemed to be less of this – at least among my twenty-something friends. But it still existed based upon people’s ages and what types of jobs they had, clothes, cars, etc. It still existed within me, too. I found myself constantly comparing myself to others. Constantly wanting to do better, to be more, to “make something of myself.”

As I’ve gotten older – I’m in my mid-forties now, I’ve worked hard to shake off these types of feelings about myself and others. Now, I tend to gravitate towards or away from people based more on how strong of a connection I feel with them. I make an effort to decide whether or not I want to spend time with another person based upon the content of their character. I make a conscious effort to view all people as equal, despite all of the traditional markers I once thought I was supposed to use to measure people.

Recently, I started an interesting experiment. All day, every day, whenever I interacted with anyone I would say to myself “equal” as I looked at them. I would even picture the word EQUAL above their head. The results of my little experiment surprised me. I discovered that this practice caused me to slow down and take a deeper concern in people. Now, the server at the restaurant was not simply someone there to take my order and bring my food, but a whole person just like me who was equal to me in every way. They might be having a good day or a bad day. They have a full compliment of feelings and concerns, just like me. They are equal to me.

I found that the practice caused me to take more interest in people. I tended to engage them in more meaningful conversations. I wanted to get to know them a little bit, even if our time together was only temporary and maybe only to provide a service. My interactions were different. More thoughtful. deeper. More human.

Seeing people as equal to me has also been good for me in situations where the social hierarchy would place the other person above me. For example, with my boss or with respected members of the community. I’ve often found myself more at ease with them. I’m more apt to make a joke or tell a story. Again, to just be human with them.

This has been a healthy experiment. Letting go of social conventions and making an effort to see everyone as equal has not been the blow to my self esteem that I thought it might be. On the contrary, I have found that seeing everyone as equal has been healthy for my self esteem. If everyone is equal then I’m as good as anyone else. If everyone is equal then I can have more concern for everyone regardless of their class and when I care more about others I feel better about myself.

Do you view all people as equal to you? Do you view yourself as equal to all people? Maybe try my experiment and see how it changes the way you move through the world. Picture the word EQUAL hovering just above everyone’s heads and reflect upon how that changes the way you view them. Do it with everyone… the large person, the small person, the old person, the young person, and people of every skin color and style of dress. Everyone.

What if there was no social hierarchy? What if we all abandoned stacking ourselves up against one another? What if we truly treated all people with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness? All people treating all people that way. It might truly transform the world.

Peace and good wishes to you always.

Matt

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respect

Why We Should Respect All People

I’m a big advocate for respecting all people all of the time. As such, I am often talking about respect and posting to social media about it. The other day I had someone come back at me with, “Respect must be earned. I don’t believe that we should respect anyone ‘just because.'” It wasn’t the first time I had heard this. Since becoming an advocate for respecting all people I have heard that criticism in some form multiple times. And I believe it’s a fair criticism. To be completely honest, I also don’t believe we should respect anyone “just because.”

Still, I believe we should respect all people. All of the time. And I believe we should do it for several reasons. Here are my top three…

First and foremost, I believe that respect is something we all desire. No matter who we are or what our station in life might be, we all long to be respected. Why? I think it has to do with one of our most basic needs – the need to believe that we have the right to exist; that we have inherent worth. And I believe that all people truly do have inherent worth. We all have value. Life is precious and simply by being alive we matter. And for that reason we deserve respect.

Second, I believe that being respectful towards everyone helps to create a more civil society. Think about it. When we treat people respectfully we treat them with some dignity. We do not scorn them or scream at them. We speak to them. We reason with them. Respect matters. And it matters because respecting everyone helps to create a society where we treat one another as equals. By respecting others we are saying to them, “You matter enough to me for me to give you my attention, my patience, and my words in a kind and articulate way.” Respect matters, because it helps to build the kind of world we want to live in.

Finally, giving everyone at least some basic level of respect helps to preserve the sanctity of life. In order for me to remain confident that I want to treat all people with respect, all I need to do is reflect upon what a world without respect looks like. Lack of respect leads to negative human interactions such as prejudice, sexism, racism, and more. Disrespect on a large enough scale can be seen to contribute to horrors like genocide and racial cleansing. During the 20th century, eugenics took root from a disrespect for certain types of human beings. Disrespect is destructive. Respect must be maintained in order for the sanctity of life to be maintained.

So there it is. Three succinct reasons to respect all people all of the time, which add up to a whole lot more than “just because.” Here’s that same list in an even shorter form:

  1. Respect affirms everyone’s inherent worth.
  2. Respect helps to create a more civil society.
  3. Respect helps to preserve the sanctity of life.

So, keep on respecting. Spread respect far and wide. Have respect for all and encourage your children and grandchildren (if you have them) to respect everyone. Help others learn from your example. Respect matters. Respect makes a difference. Respect is the foundation upon which strong relationships can be built. Keep striving. Together we can build a brighter future.

Matthew Vasko

Founder & CEO, Century of Compassion