When you bestow a compliment to someone, their frequent response is, “No one has ever complimented me in that way before.” The act of appreciation is a nurturing form of feedback and encouragement, expressing your care for another. Fortunately for the world, there is no shortage of people who deserve to be recognized and acknowledged for their virtues, great and small.
Appreciation is too good to keep inside.
What you appreciate tends to grow and expand. The first beneficiary is you … but the ripple effects don’t stop there. The acknowledgement that you give yourself for who you are, what you do and your affect on the world extends out, in ways you cannot predict or manage. One of the initial benefits is that you are less likely to pressure others for attention when you appreciate yourself for doing your best. Self-appreciation leads to greater self-confidence, better boundaries and a happier mindset. Rippling out beyond self-appreciation is acknowledgement and appreciation of others for their strengths, their contributions and their unique approach to life.
Friends and Appreciation
Research has repeatedly shown that appreciation is a vital ingredient to successful, long-term relationships. We tend to seek out those who appreciate us for who we are, and the reverse is equally true. A simple expression of gratitude alters the energy of the relationship. As people grow older, there is an increased awareness of the value of friendships.
The investments that we make in friendship enrich our lives.
So often we acknowledge friends only on special occasions, yet our lives are continuously affected by them. Deep friends are treasures on the path, because they remind us to keep opening up and reaching out. Practice acknowledging your friends any time, any day, for their parts in these glorious relationships that so sustain you.
Acknowledgement and gratitude are too seldom expressed. Take a moment to transmit a message of thanks to those who have been your friends. Send a thank you note to let people know how much you appreciate their virtues. Say thanks just because you are friends, any and every day of the year.
The Magic of Appreciation
You have the power to transform a person’s life just by honoring what they have done. Being acknowledged can make pain disappear and smiles emerge. Acknowledgement and appreciation invite someone to the center of attention for one moment. That moment can change a life.
“When I am appreciated, I am being bathed in sparkles! The glow lasts a lifetime and I draw comfort from it during my bleak moments. I have this friend who, by the way she looks at me, makes me feel loved. There are no words to describe the energy in her eyes as she beams at me. Recalling her face from memory gives me pleasure. When I cherish a friend who appreciates me for who I am, I feel good inside.”
I learned the magic of appreciation early, in college, where I majored in sociology. Two of my professors where older, single women who had spent their entire adult lives studying and teaching at the University of Cincinnati. For some unknown reason, they criticized me in class. Maybe it was because I looked like a wild man with my long hair and beard … who knows? Maybe they thought I was unfit for their profession. Whatever the reason, these two teachers made it difficult for me to pass their classes, which I needed to graduate.
I wondered if anyone had ever been kind to them. I decided to try an experiment: when they were critical of me, I would shower them with appreciation.
They shared a dank basement office. Once I convinced the maintenance man to open their door on a Friday after they had left for the weekend. I filled the room with flowers that I had gathered and left a note thanking them for all the years that they had devoted to their profession, signed, “Love, Bob.”
Monday morning as I walked across campus with my friends, we spotted the two professors. As soon as they saw me, they waved and called out hellos. My friends were perplexed by the girlish smiles I received as the professors passed.
Appreciation is a quick magic trick that anyone can perform.
Have you recently thanked someone for his or her support, or for helping you see the brighter side of life? It’s fun to find out how people like to be appreciated. One may prefer being honored privately, while another loves a public acknowledgement. How you set up the situation can be as important as the appreciation itself. Take time to plan so that the recipient is at their maximum receptivity. Prepare your thoughts in such a way that what you say is a detailed compliment, and include the positive effect the person had on you.
On my 50th birthday, I had the privilege of being the keynote speaker for a group of health professionals at a conference in a fancy hotel in Chicago. The presenter before me was awarded a dozen red roses by the association for the outstanding work she had done. Afterward, she gave me one of her roses in appreciation for my presentation.
Later, as I was packing up my stuff in the hotel room, a maid entered. She was an older woman who I supposed had worked at the hotel her whole life. As she moved closer I could tell by the way she walked that life had been hard on her body. She was tired but her spirit was bright. As I watched her I had the image of a grandma who cherished each of her many grandchildren. As she cleaned the table in front of me, our eyes met and I saw one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen.
“Hello! I would like to present this rose to you in appreciation of your smile,” I said. Her eyes and smile went on high beams as I extended the rose. “Bless you,” she said and gave me a joyous hug.
Letters of Appreciation
Once, while teaching a course on self-esteem to grade school teachers, I was asked for suggestions on how to better involve the parents in esteeming their kids. I suggested that they send the kids home on Friday with a note asking parents to help with a special homework assignment. The kids asked their parents to write a letter on what they most appreciated about their respective child. On Monday, the kids read their letters aloud to the class. These students were surprised and thrilled by the appreciation expressed for them in these letters. Many teachers reported that this was the best day of their careers.
Ask your parents, or any adult who was close to you while growing up, to write a letter of appreciation for you and see what comes up.
A Gift of Love
I have a beautiful jade green, circular stone with a hole in the center. A silk cord is strung through it so it can be worn around the neck. Maggie and I take turns giving the necklace back and forth as a gift. It serves as a reminder of our love and appreciation. We may exchange the gift once a day, or one of us may wear it for a month.
When I am feeling especially close to Maggie, I bestow the necklace on her as if it were an orchid lei. Another time, when I feel distant and want to signal my desire to strengthen our connection, I present it to her formally. We trade the necklace back and forth, its exchange symbolizing our in-to-me-see; the intimacy to look into my center. That necklace is now the only jewelry I wear.
Start a similar ritual exchange with a special friend. Each time the gift is given, treat it with honor. The gift is a symbol of the love and growth you share. It has value only because your friendship has value.
To blow in appreciation is a beautiful custom in many cultures. A simple nod of the head to a full upper body is a gracefully gesture of respect.
Some years ago, I registered to participate in a meditation retreat at a Zen center in northern California. Arriving early, I decided to hike up majestic Mt. Shasta. I wanted solitude, so I made my way up to an isolated ridge. I had climbed about 100 feet up a steep incline when a falling rock the size of a softball struck me on the head. Dizzy, blood dribbling into my eyes, I clung to the mountainside. Had I passed out, I would have fallen. I was barely able to inch my way over to a ledge and rest until I could climb down safely.
Later that day, I arrived at the Zen center with a bandage on my head. I was greeted by monks in black robes with shaved heads. It was a silent retreat center, so I was handed an instruction pamphlet and shown to my room. I read that our meditation retreat would focus on two practices: being aware in every moment and honoring all things with a bow.
At breakfast we were seated at a long table. Our place setting consisted of a cup and silverware perched on a metal plate, covered by a paper napkin. I watched the monks silently remove their cup and utensils. Then, as the food was passed from one person to the next, the person receiving the food bowed with one hand touching their forehead as their other hand grasped the food. There was only one serving, so you had to take just the right amount to last you until the next meal. I thought I was doing pretty well with the bowing and passing of food until, as I bowed, my elbow hit the corner of my metal plate, which flipped and landed with a loud CLANK! There were tiny smiles and silent laughter among the monks.
During our many periods of meditation, we began with three bows: one to our fellow students, one to our teacher and finally to our cushions. After a couple of days of this routine, I noticed I was developing a deep appreciation for my soft cushion. This bowing extended into the chores we were assigned each day. I especially liked to bow to my bed at the end of a long day. The quiet time gave me the opportunity to reflect on being alive.
When the retreat was over, I felt a need to return to the mountain. The full moon lit my way as I walked up its flank. At last I sat in meditation at the edge of a rock field where I focused my gaze on a particular rock about the size of the one that had hit me days earlier. At the end of my meditation, I bowed in thanks to the mountain and then to the rock.
I walked over and picked up the rock. I held it, feeling its weight as I rolled it in my hands. Then I saw the symbol for OM was etched into it and I roared with laughter. My laughter echoed about the mountainside in a chorus. It seemed that the mountain was laughing with me as it gave me this unexpected gift.
Bowing in appreciation has stayed with me. Sometimes I nod my head in subtle, internal acknowledgement. I feel that this practice has helped me better appreciate the small things that others do for me every day.
Bow each time you notice something for which you are thankful. It can be a simple nod of the head or a full, deep bow with hands together in a posture of prayer. Soon you will notice how naturally bowing comes to you and how often.
Show You Care
Since we all like to be acknowledged and thrive on love in the form of appreciation, I often wonder why we don’t do it more often. There is no shortage of ways that appreciation can be expressed yet we miss so many opportunities. Words of praise are precious.
Are you receiving the appreciation you deserve and desire? If the answer is no, which is true for most people, there are reasons why that is so. Look for the answers. Begin by being receptive and reflect on those times when you received the gift of appreciation. If needed, educate your friends about how you like to be acknowledged.
Observe how others show appreciation and then review your own skill at bestowing it. Perhaps it’s a good idea to keep a record of compliments you have given and received each day.
Do you go to sleep at night with the satisfaction that you have expressed your love for those you matter in your life?
Remember all of the special things you did with your friends. None of these precious moments would have happened without them. You create friends and the fun you have together. There are many simple joys that await you when you reach out in friendship. Being receptive and trusting create resonance.
Our friends touch our lives in many meaningful ways that we cherish. There are events and people that could be removed from our life stories and not missed, but there is not one friendship we would want erased. We want these moments of love and friendship to be longer and more frequent. Our loved ones fill our life with wonderful memories and meaning.
Breathe slowly. Inhale, fill your lungs, exhale and empty. Repeat until relaxed. Allow a bubble to float up to the quiet surface of your mind. The name of a good friend from your past is inside the bubble. When it pops, the name is a surprise. Say this name aloud. Feel it pass over your lips on the exhale. Recall a time and place when you were together. See this person’s face smiling at you. Hear him or her say your name in greeting. It is so good to see him or her again! Welcome this person for a visit. Will you shake hands or hug each other tightly?
Feel how this memory is stored everywhere in your body. Images appear in your mind, sensations are felt in different parts of your body and your spirit lights up. Though the memory is old, the experience of your friend is new. Thank him or her for being your friend.
At the end of a week, reflect on the time you spent with your friends and how you will make an even better investment in these people next week. What can you do now to create the memories you want?
Remember a friend who:
Took the time to know who you were;
Taught you a new way to play;
Helped you move into your new apartment in the rain;
Loves to travel with you;
Believed in you until you learned to believe in yourself;
Noticed you were sad and asked what you needed;
Held you and just listened;
Helped you bounce like a trampoline rather than hitting bottom;
Called during your “day from hell,” inviting you over for dinner;
Got you to laugh at yourself;
Found you the perfect job;
Checked on you during your illness;
Called you during emergencies and offered to help;
Supported you financially;
Helped you to celebrate the good times in style;
Offered you encouragement at a critical time;
Remained at your side during the collapse of your love life;
Welcomed you into his or her life;
Told you the truth while others were just being nice;
Comforted you during a time of loss;
Noticed your efforts and praised you;
Celebrated your birthday with a surprise visit;
Sent you letters to keep the connection going;
Went on silent walks with you;
Changed your life;
Died yet his or her spirit lives on;
Invited you to practice being your loving self;
Introduced you to a new kindred spirit.
#2 Kinds of Appreciations
Make a Difference: We all enjoyed hearing how we have positively impacted the life of another. Who has made a big difference in your life? These are some of great opening lines. “Thank you for making a big difference in my life.” “My life is more valuable with you in it. I am pleased to reflect back all that I have received from you.” Then explain in detail how their actions have effected you. Many times the person being acknowledged will share that they were unaware of their effect.
We can make a world of difference one appreciation at a time.
Certificate of Appreciation: Who has inspired you? Send hand written thank you notes. Create certificates of appreciation. Leave messages of gratitude on answering machine so they can listen again and again. Give an award thanking them for the impact they had on you. Create a certificate of appreciation for a friend and frame it. On it, list the special virtues this person brings to the relationship. They will feel appreciated every time they look at it. Call or write someone now. Make a special delivery.
Compliments: When we compliment someone, their frequent response is, “No one has ever complimented me in that way before.” The act of appreciation is a nurturing form of feedback and encouragement, expressing your care for another. Fortunately for the world, there is no shortage of people who deserve to be recognized for their virtues, great and small.
Best Effort: There is a tendency to only celebrate when someone completes a big project or breaks a world record. Small victories need to be honored. Pay attention to small success and celebrate them. Appreciate someone for do their best not just for the best person.
Gifts: Gifts are a “funtastic” way to show appreciation. The gift represents and is a ongoing reminder of the hard work and the gratitude of the group. Even the smallest gift serves as a positive reinforcement to all.
Letters of Appreciation: People consistently report how they enjoy receiving a hand written letter of appreciation.
Greetings & Good-byes: are a particularly good time to share your feelings. The smile on your face quickly transmits your appreciation. Thank your friends for their acts of love and reflect on the wonderful insights and adventures you have experienced together. Tell them how you want to be appreciated and ask them what they desire in the continuing relationship.
Touch: How we respectfully touch a person conveys our appreciation for them.
Thank You!: Observe and count the number of times you say and hear this simple words.
Words & Phrases: Here is a list of some of the language that expresses the notion of positive regard. Add words or a phrases like these several times a day. Your tone, attitude and emotion give these words their energetic boost.
That’s much better
Keep it up
I like it
I’m proud of you
Way to go
Good for you
I appreciate your hard work
You out did yourself
I am Glad that did not happen!: Just for fun get together with a friend and make a list of all the things you are thankful that did not go wrong today, like the mistakes you did not make.
#3 Appreciation of the Earth
Recently I have found myself wanting to capitalize the word “Earth” as a sign of respect. How we treat the Earth is a measure of our virtues. I believe that everything we learn about being virtuous translates into being a better inhabitant of the Earth. A balance of self-interest and respect is necessary. Inner harmony is directly related to the harmony around us. One goal is to live in a way that is equally good for ourselves and good for the Earth. A strong will to live has to include the will to support those systems that support our life.
Celebrate your kinship with the Earth.
People tend to ignore their relationship to the Earth. If we treated our friends with such neglect, we wouldn’t have any. Some people act childish, expecting the Earth to take care of them. Others behave more like rebellious teenagers, with an “I don’t need you” attitude. Yet, if these people had no water for a day, they would develop a heightened sense of the precious nature of water and their relationship to it.
The Earth is constantly giving. Since friendship, by definition, is mutual, our responsibility is to complete the cycle by being mature in this relationship, including gratitude and appreciation.
Every action we take has a negative or positive affect on our planet. We may have a great relationship with ourselves, our mates and kids, but if the life support systems of our Earth are cruelly disregarded, we will have nothing.
Our Home in Space
This blue and white globe floating in the dark night of space is alive! The concentration and diversity of life make Earth a rare entity in the universe. I think of the Earth as a huge, self-contained, living being, a bubble that supports life in the hostile environment of space. I feel that I am a small cell of the life form Earth. I display a photograph of the Earth as seen from space as a constant reminder that I am privileged to live in this paradise.
I honor plants which absorb energy in the form of light from our sun, 93 million miles away. I marvel at plants’ ability to capture photons of energy traveling at the speed of light. I appreciate a plant’s capacity to extract energy from inorganic material.
We breathe Earth’s miraculous atmosphere thousands of times a day. Notice, for just one minute, your breath. Each breath is a prayer of thanks for the trees, meadows, ocean and plants and the oxygen they create. Make a pledge of loyalty and devotion to the Earth. Every day is a holy day. Each day as you rise, ask how you may be of service to the Earth.
Balancing Belongings and Belonging
The following interview with Pat is typical of the struggle to break free from being owned by possessions:
“Several years ago, my life seemed empty. I tried to satisfy my hunger with belongings but I was a bottomless pit. Things had become more important than my relationships. I was starving for a feeling of community while my house was full of possessions.
I needed a new definition of success and searched for it. I began by examining the time I spent just working to earn money. Then I looked at the time and energy it took to buy and maintain my possessions. I realized that I was spending my life on material things when I actually needed very few of them to survive. If everyone consumed as much as I did, there wouldn’t be enough to go around. It would destroy the planet.
Now, I define success not by how much money I make but rather by how well I attend to my life. I realize that I have the power to change the world by how I earn and spend money. I cast my ballot each day for how I want the world to be.
Because of the changes I’ve made, I feel like a multi-billionaire with a diverse portfolio of friends. I have invested wisely in relationships.
Sometimes the return on my investment is instantly rewarding. Other friendships require more time and energy. I have learned to cut my losses when the relationship becomes a drain on my resources.
I have accumulated necessary material things, but not more than that. I am focusing the rest of my life on being in service to the Earth. A livable Earth is the best inheritance I can give to my kids. The more love I exchange, the fewer belongings I need.”
Wealth without health and happiness is worthless.
Millions of Miracles
For our ten-year wedding anniversary, Maggie and I treated ourselves to a trip to the Bahamas. We discovered an educational facility that offered swimming with dolphins in a large bay. We were able to play with them for almost an hour! It is easy to feel a kinship with these advanced beings. That evening in our hotel room, we happened to turn on the TV. The movie Cocoon was playing. Amazingly, it featured the same dolphins we had just been in the water with that very day!
I treasure those times when I see an animal in the wild for the first time. I can imagine the setting where I spotted my first bobcat, wolf, buffalo, baby bear, moose, porcupine or a new bird. Just as friendship takes time, so does having the bond with nature.
Every living being is a miracle!
Each day, find one new way to realize your connection with the Earth. Practice seeing the beauty around you. It can be as simple as a leaf suspended from a spider’s web, slowly twirling in the morning breeze. Discover the many gifts from the Earth. Be intimate with the Earth by knowing its beauty.
As a child, I would spend a week during the summer on my grandparents’ farm. I loved going there because I was warmly welcomed. I would soon scamper outside to explore the buildings, fields and animals. I returned when the big dinner bell rang.
Looking back on these memories, breakfast time stands out. While my grandma cooked, I helped my grandpa feed and care for the animals. The kitchen was warmed by a big wood-fired cook stove. I liked splitting the wood into small pieces for my grandma. When the chores were finished, I pumped the water and scrubbed up with homemade soap.
By the time we finally ate, I was ravenous. “Hunger is the best spice,” my grandma used to say. Most of the food on the table was from the farm. I’d gathered the fresh, warm eggs from under the chickens. The bacon came from the pig I’d helped to butcher the previous year. The flour for the corn bread grew in the fields plowed by a team of twin workhorses. I can still feel their rippling muscles as I rode on their backs. The butter was hand-churned from fresh cow’s milk; I never could get the milking action right. The applesauce came from the trees I had climbed, shaking the branches until the ripe ones dropped to the ground. Peeling and canning were hard work. Hash browns were once the potatoes that I’d helped dig out from the garden.
We worked hard and the land produced much. No one ever went hungry. This experience instilled in me a lasting appreciation for the land and cycles of life. It is amazing how many people never raise one calorie of food though consume tons. I like to honor the land by using the energy from my food to serve it.
One morning, while drizzling honey onto my cereal, I imagined the process that occurred just to get the honey to my table. I once installed a beehive at my retreat center. I read that bees are responsible for as much as 50 percent of our food, so effective are they at pollination. Living next to an orchard showed me how true this was. The retreat center’s apple trees used to produce only a small crop, but the next year, when the bees were present, the branches nearly broke from the bounty.
The hive, an intelligent community, awakens at first light. A scout bee returns to communicate the finding of flowering nectar. He dances around, wagging his tail to indicate the distance and direction to the source. The bees watch the dancer carefully and hum with excitement. The vibration of their wings stirs the air.
The bees see the vibrations of energy that each blossom radiates, with their special compound eyes. Bees are a kind of sexual go-between for the blossoms. They gather the nectar and pollen and transport it to the hive. There the nectar is processed into honey. The worker bees build wax combs to store the honey. The queen deposits her eggs in the combs. The bees work hard and have a short lifespan. The survival of the hive depends upon producing enough bees to replace those who die.
The enormous effort of all these bees sweetens my life. Thousands of flights are needed to bring this honey to me. Just as the bees collect, transport, process and store the honey, the same steps are repeated again by humans before the honey arrives at my table.
The fragrance of honey is a delicate echo of the aroma of the fields. I love watching the slow flow of golden honey as I pour it on my cereal. It tastes divine. The spirit of the Earth and sun is in the honey, spirit which feeds my body. The bees are my kindred spirits.
I would like to see “Made by the Earth” stamped on all products, above the manufacturer’s name.
Spiritual ecology explores the relationship between the human spirit and the Earth. Spirituality is a seamless communion between self and nature. Our planet is an integrated system, thus what affects one has consequences for the whole.
When we nourish our spirits there is a positive ripple effect which radiates outward. When we change our inner world, the outer world will follow. When we nurture our spirits, we nurture nature.
Our bodies came from the Earth. We were born into a world inherited in good faith from our ancestors and have been given a short time to be above ground before we give our bodies back. Our responsibility is to create a world that we would be proud to pass on to future generations. We need to evolve until protecting the environment is a daily, spiritual practice.
Our quality of life is dependent on our ability to love the Earth. Our spirituality needs to be grounded as well as connected to the heavens. Raising individual and collective consciousness is a critical practice.
Do your best to live a conscious life. Develop a passionate love for your friend the Earth. Make your relationship to the Earth an integral part of your spiritual path. Work hard for the planet’s well-being. Our spiritual responsibility is to take a stand with our lives. Become kindred spirits with the Earth.
How will you show your love and appreciation for the Earth?
What are you giving back to this Earth from which you came?
Recall a time when you were honored for one of your strengths. When someone pays you respect, they are making an effort to let you know that they value you. We glow in the dark when we are treated with respect. Keeping commitments, showing empathy, being honest and treating others with kindness—all are ways of showing respect. Because the virtue of respect is so intimately linked to the other virtues, the level of respect determines the quality of the love.
If you do not have the kind of friendships you want, begin to look at the quality of the friendship you have with yourself. Respect for yourself is one of the hardest qualities to acquire, but is the key to the successful quest. As you increase your self-respect, the ways you respect others also expands. When you have a high level of self-respect, you can reliably expect to be treated with regard.
Respect is a cherished expression of love.
Because I value respect, the challenge is to not be defensive when I feel that someone is acting in a disrespectful manner. Many negative feelings are activated when I am treated disrespectfully. The dynamics are complex, but basically it comes to this: I want my values respected even when they are not in alignment with someone else’s. We can have conflicting opinions without being in conflict.
The person who I feel is being disrespectful of me may express themselves inappropriately. Even so, there might be some truth in what they say. I find it useful to ask myself, “Have I done anything that has promoted being treated this way?” If the answer is yes, then I ask, “How can I clean up my act?”
At the same time, I need to protect myself from someone who is upset and just trying to draw me into his or her drama. Asking, “What is their level of self respect?” helps me to engage my rational mind when my emotions run away with me. People who abuse themselves will likely try to treat me in a similar way if I let them. The trick is not to be triggered by someone who has a lower level of self-respect than me. When I am able to recognize this dynamic, I am less likely to get hooked and feel disrespected.
During an encounter in which I don’t like the way someone is treating me, it is often the case that they are feeling bad and are invested in making me feel bad too. I resist the urge to retaliate with a nasty comment. If they can manipulate me into being disrespectful towards them then, in a perverse way, they have proof that I am a bad person and somehow they were justified in being rude to me in the first place. I do not wish to be dragged down to such a level. I am increasingly less willing to be in relationship with people who are not working toward improving their levels of self-respect and respect towards others.
Respect for the Relationship
What is important to you? Whatever it is, you naturally want respect for what you value. The more intimate you become with your friends, the greater the need for an increased level of respect. You want to know that they can care about themselves and you at the same time, and that before they act, they will take your feelings into consideration.
It is our birthright to be treated with consideration. Earning deeper levels of respect beyond this base is dependent on one’s actions being grounded in integrity. There is a need to re-inspect the relationship on a regular basis, to see if there are behaviors that are causing the level of respect to drop.
Acceptance is not permission to be a jerk. Some people falsely believe if you truly love them, you must take them the way they are. Any action you take that they interpret to be a desire to change them is seen as disrespectful and they assume a defensive posture. Such resistance demonstrates their failure to understand that entering into relationship is the most powerful means of personal transformation.
A relationship is a living thing that needs to grow or it will die. An agreement to love implies a willingness to grow. The goal is to be true to ourselves, and also to grow and change.
With respect, we accept our friends for who they are, just as we know how to accept ourselves as we are. We are only caught in our own projections when we see our friends as we want them to be rather than who they are. With respect, we see that there is no need to change the other person. We can be thrilled that our friends are different.
Disagree or Disrespect
It is easy to respect someone who does something that you admire, or who agrees with you. However it is rare that two people’s priorities match up and remain in perfect alignment. The challenge heats up when you must act in a respectful manner toward someone close to you who is doing something contrary to your beliefs. Kindred spirits are intimately involved, so differences are more evident than they would be with casual friends. To respectfully disagree is not easy for us humans. To hold one or more different opinions with respect taxes our flexibility. The greater the frequency of interactions, the greater the need to be respectful of the differences. For deep bonds to form, respect and forgiveness are essential.
My intention is to respect a friend even when I have trouble understanding them. We must accept both the ways our paths are parallel and the ways they differ. I require respect for my right to be different. I want a friend to respect me even when he or she does not like certain actions of mine. I like having the kind of friends who will let me know if they feel I have been disrespectful
When someone I care about and who cares about me makes a mistake, I am able to forgive. But I find it hard to respect someone who is constantly disrespectful of me. At the end of the day, in such cases, they have the right to be themselves and I have the right to stay away from them.
Respect also means refraining from unfair judgement when there is a difference of opinion. When we mutually respect each other, we realize there is often no right or wrong, just different opinions: we are free to be ourselves without fear. Listening to our friend’s point of view does not necessarily mean we agree. When a friend listens with respect during a disagreement, we feel great, because we feel heard. There may be areas in which we strongly disagree, but we don’t become disagreeable toward each other. Your warning light should come on if friends never disagree with you. Either they are afraid of your response, they are not expressing their feelings honestly or they do not have enough respect for you to exert the energy. Being too agreeable to take a stand weakens the connection.
I mean no disrespect, but I do not like this about you. I care enough about you and our relationship to speak up and voice my opinion.
This is difficult to say and can be hard to hear, but true friends are willing to risk speaking the truth as they see it. Instead of avoiding areas of conflict, good friends learn skills in conflict resolution and prevention.
Seek friends who help you see past your blind spots.
Debate or Discussion
I vividly remember the expression on my high school teacher’s face when I disagreed with him on a point of theology. He tried to convince me that I was wrong because he was a Christian Brother and a religious scholar. When I repeated that the principles upon which I had based my opinion were sound, he tried to pressure me to give in by showing me that every student in the class agreed with him, so he must be right. When I said that just because I was outnumbered forty to one did not mean that I was wrong, he dismissed my point of view and went on with the lesson.
To his credit, two weeks later Brother Williams apologized to me in front of the class and admitted that I was right and that he had been wrong. He had taken the time to consult with Rome regarding the official stance on the topic of the debate, and was informed that my position was correct. He explained that he had made an error in his thinking. “Either I am right or I am wrong, and since I do not like being wrong then you must be wrong.” He also said he was wrong for the way he treated me. A strong bond formed between us that we enjoyed during our years at school together.
Quite often, disrespect is unintended. I pay attention to the intentions behind a person’s words and actions. When a friend acts in a way that I think is disrespectful, I try to determine if that person made an innocent mistake or if the behavior was a result of not caring about my needs. Most of the time when I feel that someone has been disrespectful, I find, upon closer examination, they were unconscious of their actions and unaware of the effect on me.
It is my responsibility not to be easily offended. When I feel mistreated, I try to step back to see if it is in any way due to a misunderstanding on my part. I am responsible for how I feel and I am learning not to blame others for my unhappiness. As we have seen, even when someone acts in a disrespectful way it doesn’t mean I have to feel disrespected. The higher the other person’s level of distress, the greater likelihood they will act in an unconscious or disrespectful way. This doesn’t excuse the behavior, but I do take into consideration the person’s state of mind. The better I become at establishing guidelines for the ways I do and do not want to be treated, the better most people treat me.
Like many other well-meaning people, I have always wanted to please people, to be nice. This has been misunderstood as weakness by some who think it gives them license to take advantage of me. Such people never seem to change their behavior, no matter what I say or do. As I have learned self-respect I no longer let them hurt me. Though I have compassion for those who try to hurt me, knowing that likely they were hurt by others, I don’t have to take what they dish out. I act to prevent reoccurrences. I ask myself: What action best serves me and is most effective with others?
How can you increase your self-respect?