SOME days you forget to don your thick skin and the world leaves you battered and blue
You look around and all you seem to see and hear is hate, racism, bigotry, homophobia, jealousy and sexism. You feel something is missing.
What’s missing is summed up in the seven-letter word that Aretha Franklin tunefully drove into our collective consciousness. Respect. Just a little bit.
You see the lack of respect everywhere. On the roads, in offices and in the streets. It’s a dog-eat-dog world some days.
All men are brothers and no human being should be a stranger to another, said Mahatma Gandhi. But that’s not a commonly held philosophy.
Despite all the anti-discrimination laws, there is a distinct lack of respect, a lack of tolerance for our diversity of race, creed, sexual orientation, cultural values, political persuasions or ideology.
Being tolerant and respectful has nothing to do with being religious or anti-religious but it might have something to do with our understanding of God.
Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, said respect was realising that God speaks to us in unique ways.
“I don’t know what God is saying in the secret places of someone else’s soul,’’ he said.
“When I look at another human being, I’m looking at someone God is taking seriously.
“I’m looking at someone God is talking to (even if they themselves don’t want to hear him). And the reverence with which I have to approach them is a bit like the hesitation I ought to feel about interrupting someone in the middle of a conversation with somebody else.
“In other words, I think that real respect begins when I recognise that everyone – and for that matter every bit of our universe – has a relationship with God that’s quite independent of their relationship with me.’’
The poet Johann Goethe said if we treated people as if they were already what they ought to be, we helped them to become what they were capable of being.
We’re curious creatures; capable of great beauty, warmth and goodness.
But listen to the common conversations around workplaces. Notice the ridicule and put downs disguised as humour? Hear the gossip disguised as news? We can’t help ourselves.
Inside us, congenitally, there’s selfishness, jealousy, and a pettiness of heart and mind that is never far from the surface.
We are too often blind to our own real faults but all too easily see faults in someone else. Most of all, we lack respect.
That’s a violation of a golden rule common to the great religions.