Showing Respect in a World of Disagreements
As you go from elementary to high school, and then one step further to university, you meet more and more people from diverse backgrounds. Your frame of reference starts small, within the confines of your own family, and slowly grows until you are face to face with a myriad of cultures, religions, beliefs, and ideas. It is an overwhelming leap. There can be an inherent discomfort when talking to someone whose ideas about the world and spirituality are in opposition to yours. How do we contend with that? How do we genuinely respect one another even when we strongly believe others are wrong?
It is important to be able to differentiate showing respect from agreeing with someone. We are constantly told to “agree to disagree,” but genuinely believing it and experiencing it day-to-day is not easy. It takes effort and education to effectively imagine things from someone else’s viewpoint. Take full advantage of the varied courses in the secondary and post-secondary worlds. Classes in world religions and the history of specific regions shed light on the rich backgrounds and complexities of other cultures. Many of us have a tendency to view our way of life as the norm. Being bombarded with constant examples of how that simply is not the case will help shatter that delusion. It will provide you a deeper understand of other ways of life.
It is just as important, if not more so, to respect another person’s identity without fixating on it. Your fellow classmates and those in your neighbourhood are all people with dreams, aspirations, frustrations, and problems much like your own. Religion is a prime example of an instigator. Someone may have a religious or non-religious belief that severely clashes with your worldview, but it is not the only identity for that person or even yourself. We are all immensely complex humans with a series of identities that are an intricate mixture of biology, environment, and experience. Consider the different identities you may adhere to, and how a number of them likely match up with someone with different spiritual beliefs.
As you traverse high school and post-secondary schooling, there will be many extra-curricular events, clubs, and organizations for you to explore. Consider spending time with attendees of events that go against your own ideas, or even attending one of those events yourself. Remember that you can abstain from support of these events or groups while still respecting them. You can have a healthy conversation with people about it, and share your disagreements without escalating into an argument. When you deride others for what they think, or try to deter them from those activities, that is when you have crossed the line to disrespect.
This is not something that necessarily gets easier over time. We all have a tendency to stay with people and in places that reinforce our own ideas and beliefs. The human mind is extremely prone to short-sightedness. Modern technology and globalization have given us the opportunity to escape that trap. It takes consistent effort to talk to those you disagree with and to expose yourself to new and antagonizing ideas. You will not only gain a true sense of how to respect others, but will gain a better sense of yourself. It is through this exploration that you will discover your true values, beliefs, and worldview.
Deardorff, Darla K. and Orla Quinlan. “How universities can teach their students to respect different cultures.” The Conversation. http://theconversation.com/how-universities-can-teach-their-students-to-respect-different-cultures-56857
Fleming, Jasmine. “How I Learned to Respect Others’ Beliefs.” Odyssey. https://www.theodysseyonline.com/how-i-learned-respect-others-beliefs
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