Respect: concern for what is noble in every human being. Respect defines character building. Without respect for God and others, how could other virtuous habits spring forth? Father Romano Guardini more clearly defined this virtue as something akin to reverence, in his book, Learning the Virtues That Lead You to God. He states:
- Every genuine virtue extends over many levels and stages because it is an attitude of a living person. Hence reverence can and should appear in everyday life, and then we can call it “respect” (p. 59).
- Respect means that one takes another’s conviction seriously (p. 60).
- Respect desires privacy for the other person (p. 60).
- Respect is the guarantee that the relations of one person to another preserve their dignity (p.62).
- True courtesy is the expression of respect for the human person (p. 62).
What are we to make of this? We must:
- Recognize that all people are created in the image and likeness of God.
- Acknowledge that every human life deserves the same dignity and respect extended to God.
- Remember that the Divine Indwelling of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit resides in every person.
Recall what Saint Matthew’s Gospel says, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (25:40). Yet, in today’s society we see far too many examples of disrespect, especially when we:
- Deny the human rights of our neighbor, (i.e.: a fair trial) we show disrespect in the form of discrimination.
- Deny the human rights of the unborn child, through the act of abortion, we show disrespect for God’s creation and a lack of love for God, as well as a lack of love for one’s own child.
- Speak ill of another to inflate our own ego, or position, we express disrespect of both God and the person maligned.
In our society, respectful behavior is on the decline, at a time when we need it most. What can be done to bring this virtue back into vogue?
- Give your neighbor his due.
- Acknowledge that every human being has the right to life.
- Speak well of others. When you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all.