Showing and getting respect

Respect. We all want it. Whether we realize it or not, we are wired to both give and get respect.

However, this important attribute is one of the most diminished and under-appreciated in society today.

I believe that producing more respect (by giving and teaching it) is one of the keys to making Cayman better than it is today. There are two kinds of fundamental respect: respect for others and respect for ourselves.

Respect for others is, to some degree, a lost art. Certainly, some parents still teach their kids to be respectful and some people of all ages still act with respect. Yet, the exchange of respect, and specifically respectful behavior, as a norm in society is not as prevalent as it once was or as it should be.

We teach our young students that the language of respect, for example, is magical. The child can create respect by giving respect, with as simple a habit as saying “yes, sir,” “no, sir,” or “yes, ma’am,” “no, ma’am.”

Children who train in martial arts receive noticeable accolades for their attitudes of respect, in school and other areas. Many adults are pleasantly surprised when children verbally respond with respect, shake hands correctly, listen attentively and/or give any of the other myriad expressions of respect that separate a youth of excellence from the masses of the normal (the ones who say “yeah”).

Martial arts teaches children a healthy attitude of respect towards their elders and to respect one another. This is a remarkably simple thing to do. Yet, as we find with many things, simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. Respectful behavior has to be practiced. The simple part is to apply the “Golden Rule.” We should treat others the way we like to be treated.

People of all ages need to listen more than they speak, respect others’ time, respect others’ privacy, and do their best to treat everyone in a way that values, encourages and empowers them as human beings.

Students get many opportunities to practice proper respect for each other. There is, of course, the formal education in the ways of respect, but there is also the practice. For example, when an adult speaks to a child, the child should keep his or her eyes focused on the adult. We explain that keeping eye contact shows respect and also shows that the person is listening.

Every time a child is reminded to sit and listen or presents a teachable moment by something he or she says or does, the behaviors of respect are strengthened. It’s the same even when a teen or adult student is practicing hard-core self-defence techniques; students are practicing powerful self-defence techniques with speed, focus and intensity, and yet they do so in a way that nobody is hurt. This attitude of self control and respect, both for one’s own ability and the well-being of one’s training partner, is another expression and exercise of respect.

Finally, we get to the all-important element of respecting oneself, which too often is at the root of the problem. Before we can respect others, or be successful and happy in any meaningful way, we must learn to respect ourselves. This includes talking to ourselves correctly, encouragingly and with love. If you don’t love who you are and if you don’t believe in yourself, who else is going to love or believe in you? A healthy self-esteem, what we call self-respect, is the first step towards a life of dignity, accomplishment and excellence.

The late, great Jim Rohn says that there are three things that affect who we are and who we are becoming: our philosophy, our attitude and our activity. We develop ourselves by what we believe, how we feel and what we do. We should learn daily and develop beliefs that support respect for ourselves and others. We need to have attitudes of gratitude and respect for ourselves and what we can do.

Finally, of course, knowledge without action is useless, and we must apply ourselves to worthy pursuits that make life better for ourselves and others. In this way, we create more respect in our inner and outer lives.

Bob Daigle is the founder and master instructor of Cayman Karate Academy. He is a 6th Degree Blackbelt with more than 30 years experience, a FAST Combatives instructor and an expert on children’s personal safety and anti-bullying training.