Respect as a Virtue

This month we begin our exploration of the seventh of the 10 prophetic justice principles by Rev. James Forbes (which you can find here)

#7 says Respect Other Nations and Peoples, and the spiritual principle that we are focusing on this month is Gratitude.  Our book of the month is The Gentle Art of Blessing

On Sunday August 18,  I talked about Respect as a Virtue (you can find the link to the video here)

R-E-S-P-E-C-T let’s find out what it means to all us.
Last week I talked about respect as a virtue. Respect is defined as a positive feeling or action shown towards someone or something considered important or held in high esteem or regard; t conveys a sense of admiration for good or valuable qualities; and it is also the process of honoring someone by exhibiting care, concern or consideration for their needs or feelings.
Respect is a value that is common to all the worlds religions, spoken about it schools and parents and cultures the world over. There are lots of books about it and curriculum resources abound. If that’s the case, then does it seem we lack so much of it in our collective experience right now?
That’s a big, seemingly complex question – but let’s dive in….
I think the answers begin to take shape when we explore how we approach and exchange Respect, as well as all of life.
I believe that respect is a relational value and tool, yet we treat it as if it is transactional. And there inlies the beginning of our problem.
Transactional Respect is that which we get through the exchange of behaviors and conditions – its a way we leverage certain kinds of power, which we think we need to navigate life. As with any transaction – you get to give and vis versa – it turns out we do this with Respect all the time. I’ll GIVE you respect IF you GIVE it to me first. Or, I’ll GIVE you respect because you have what I want.
Transactional Respect becomes a bargaining chip for three specific kinds of power.
1. Positional Power – is power that is received because of the position that one holds, a uniform, title, etc.
2. Coercive Power – which most parents are familiar with – just think back to when you were potty training a toddler! This is power we receive as we coerce others to do what we want them to do
3. Reward Power – this form of power is a step above Covercive power – where we reward people for good behavior and thereby exert power over them through the reward.
As human beings we leverage these types of power in order to gain Respect. The problem with this type of transactional Respect is that it does not require relationship – only a belief in the myth of power that is externalized from our center.
Today we live in a highly transactional world – where everything is about what others can do for you, we don’t care about who they are – so long as we get the results we want. A transactional world lacks real relationship. Our whole identity is based on what we harvest in our transactions. This form of identity leaves us empty and fractured.
William James called it a Hotel Society. We are the most technologically advanced society in the world – and we suffer from a lack of connection. Ironic isn’t it. In the world it becomes too easy to be a cynic, to judge “the other”, engage in tweet storms, govern by Facebook or inact keyboard justice! Overtime this transactional society builds up plaque on our collective heart. Today our heart suffers from repeated cardiac arrest in the form of mass shootings, police brutality and bigoted politics that divide us.
You see, the soul will always seek out its wholeness, but if who I am is based on my transactional history then my seeking of wholeness will utilize the only skill I have – transactional behavior. In otherwords, in order to be whole, i have to take something away from you, or give you something I don’t have.
Relational Respect on the other hand – requires that I know you. And in order to know you – I have to connect. I have to be in relationship with the world around me in a way that requires me to seek to be known and ask permission to know (engage) with all that is around me.
I can’t attack or judge you as easily if I know your name, where you come from and what your history is. If I have relationship with you then I have opened a door to my heart.
This requires vulnerability and its the most courageous and life changing thing we can do.

“If this brotherhood of man were recognized and practiced by the world at large, all war, poverty, and need would vanish from the face of the earth. They are creations of the finite mind and were never intended to be. God views all as a perfect whole; our divisions are only apparent, they can never be real”

Ernest Holmes, The Hidden Power of the Bible, pg. 59

Keep practicing my friends…

 – Rev. Dr. David Alexander


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