Poly notebooks are a bit funny to me, because they provide me with a soapbox to preach. In general, I try to provide helpful advice on how to live better, but I rarely talk about how to be a better person. In general, I avoid it because I don’t think I’m the type of person who can, or should, tell others how to be themselves. However, there is one topic that is of vast importance to me and has made me a better person: respect.
One value I try to hold myself to is treating everyone with baseline respect. First, what does that mean? To me, it means not displacing my emotions on a person just because they happen to be in the wrong place, and not doing anything to make someone feel uncomfortable or demeaned. Pretty simple, right? Yet, every day I observe service workers being yelled at in restaurants, and women being catcalled on the street. In my eyes, the people who perform these actions have no respect for others, simply by conforming to their own ideas of “incompetent” or “desirable.”
This brings me to my next point, that we are judged based on our actions and not our intentions. How I used to see this was a bit selfish—I used to think that I should outwardly work harder to show who I really am—but there is the other side. Is the waiter who gave you the wrong order doing it because they dislike you? Probably not. It’s certainly a mistake, and respect comes from an understanding of this, and from taking care of the situation in a level-headed manner.
Finally, and this may be the hardest part, remember that whole “understanding intentions versus actions” part? Now we have to apply that to the restaurant screamer or catcaller, and understand why I used the term “baseline respect.” The truth is, if a person can’t reciprocate the amount of respect you give, they don’t deserve any back. But what if it isn’t a stranger showing disrespect, but a friend or family member? An extra level of thought should go into handling these scenarios, since it is obviously the wrong choice to just take anyone that’s ever been mean to you out of your life, because, in these cases, showing less respect is probably the wrong choice.
Respect is one of the key values that I’ve tried to focus my life around, and it has helped to make me an immeasurably better person. Respect breeds compassion and patience, and through this we can make a better world.