The Values of Respect and Compassion

We live in an age when there are overall changes in our society in the values of respect and compassion. I no longer see people pulling back chairs or opening doors for others. Actually, I am constantly witness to a general lack of respect everywhere. From vulgar profanity in public places to downright abuse of others – this saddens me. Where I see this lack of respect most of all is within social media. There, people write anything they want – about anyone they want and to anyone they want without consideration of the grievous harm they might cause.

Respect is sadly missing everywhere – respect for rights, respect for property, respect for values – we now live in a world of “I deserve it!” I cannot tell you how many young people have said to my face “I see no reason to show respect to an older person. I would not treat them any differently than my peers.” They do not treat their peers with respect either! They have no idea what has been lost. When I was growing up, we never addressed adults by their first names, even when they were relatives. We always used terms to honor their role in our lives such as Aunt this or Uncle that. It just wasn’t done. In the South when we used a first name it was preceded by Miss, i.e. Miss Deanne. I am sure this must sound silly in this day and age. It was about honor and respect, every day reminders that when we were in the company of someone older and more experienced than us, a certain amount of honor and respect was due.

I recently experienced an online interchange that appalled me. I had joined a group of Goddess women, a planning circle, to create and offer a gathering for women that would be inclusive of all who identify as women. This was a big step, leaving the “woman born woman” concept behind and making major strides into a more inclusive offering for those who were previously excluded. It was to be a national event.

I began by asking the kinds of questions that I felt would help women to begin thinking in an inclusive way and to think of the needs of all attending. These women wanted a “clothing optional” event. I had concerns as a cisgender woman, and did not wish to approach this festival from a cisgender privileged mindset. I did not want to assume that the comfort level of nudity would be the same for our transgender sisters. Also, as a national festival, if women were flying in for the event, would a camping event be the best option if we chose a venue that offered no sleeping accommodations other than tent camping with no permanent toilets or showers. And what about our older women or disabled women – and how do we address these needs?

After receiving outright hostility after suggesting we should check with our transgender sisters and ask about their comfort levels with nudity, I then posed those additional questions. Here is the exchange that took place and the response I received:

My questions …

If we are promoting a national event we need to ask ourselves …. What is our primary objective? Are we creating something new and original? What is our theme? How do guests arriving from out of town get to our event? Considering the expense of getting here – what would the expectations of our guests be? How do we accommodate the disabled and older women? How do we accommodate women flying in who will not have camping gear? Considering that women will be flying in for this event – how do we deal with all the meals they will require since they will have no way to bring food for themselves? Please feel free to add to this list of things to consider …

The response …

“To take on this kind of responsibility would not only COST way more than we could every charge but also set a precedent which lacks in SELF responsibility. I can understand the possibility of ‘taking care of’ out of town speakers/presenters, but NOT anyone else (regardless of age or disability) – those folks need to be able to care for themselves or STAY HOME. “

There was not one single objection to this comment from other planners – not one. I share this because it is a good example of current mindsets that lack not only foresight, but compassion – unwilling to care about those less fortunate than they are, not able to give one thought for the welfare of others – the “all out for me” mindset we see every day.

In the last year I have become a bus rider. Above the seats in the front of the bus is a sign stating “priority seating for elderly and mobility impaired riders.” I qualify on both counts and yet when I need a seat all seats are occupied by young people who scowl and even refuse to get up with my first asking! I have to get hostile and point out the sign before they will move!

I miss those little courtesies like letting someone go before you in the checkout line if they only have a few items and your basket is full – or offering to help someone obviously struggling with something. What happened to kindness?

I have thought about this a lot. I think in the mix of society not teaching children to be considerate and compassionate with others is also the busy distracted lifestyle of this modern world. What is the care level we give our friendships? What is the care level we offer our own family members? I know from a personal perspective it saddens me that my children and grandchildren do not visit regularly. They are just too busy! I love spending time with my daughters and wish somehow I could be closer to my grown grandchildren who live in the same city with me but somehow their lives do not have the “space” to include me as I would want. My son lives too far away for in-person visits but bless him, he calls frequently.

One of my favorite authors is Thomas Moore. His book, Soul Mates: Honoring the Mystery of Love and Relationship, is one of the very best out there that speaks of the importance of honoring the soul of a relationship. The basic premise is that every relationship, be it family, lover, or friendship – the relationship connection creates what he calls the “soul” of the relationship and that for the soul of that relationship to survive in a healthy way – it must be nurtured. Somehow we imagine that our friendships will survive if we ignore our friends – that our family members and the relationships we have with them (if good) will remain that way if we never call or visit.

So what I believe must happen if we wish to be more compassionate is that we must slow our journey down and turn our self-focused lives into a more “other” directed path. We must then become the solution. We need to show these small kindnesses. We must nurture our relationships with time spent to say, “I care.” Love is an action verb! We must be the pathway that shows others how to “be” in this world – how to live as other focused beings who value and respect the sacredness of all. We must take the time to be kind – to be compassionate and loving. Others will see and perhaps mimic this behavior. We can at least hope – yes?