Aretha Franklin sang, —All I—m asking is for a
little respect, just a little bit!— How many times in your life
have you asked for —just a little respect—?
In this Youth Update, we will explore the philosophy of
respect, and how often in life we don—t give ourselves the respect
that we deserve. Sometimes, others don—t give us respect, and
once in a while, we may award ourselves respect we really haven—t
Talents are gifts from God. Respect is a gift from yourself to
yourself. Respect is also earned by the way you treat others.
If you have low self-esteem, you are probably not giving yourself
respect. Do you feel that you have to follow the crowd, because
if you don—t they won—t like you? Did you buy a certain outfit
just because your friends told you to (even though you thought
the outfit looked terrible)? Was there ever someone that you
really wanted to date and never asked out, simply because your
friends didn—t think that person was cool?
By not doing things that you want to do, simply because others
told you not to, you are not respecting yourself and your
How much respect you have for yourself is reflected in the way
you treat others. As we read in the Bible, —Love your neighbor
as yourself— (Leviticus 19:18).
God—s plan, clear in the Scriptures, is that you treat one another
with respect. In contrast, TV sitcoms often present —nerds—
on whom —heroes— can post —kick me— signs. You know the type.
He or she has the geeky glasses and blemishes and gets picked
on or beat up by bullies. Such a person gets no respect.
But every person deserves respect, because it—s based not on fashion
or complexion, but on the truth of that person—s creation by
God. You could express this belief in the way you act. First,
consider how —respect-able— you are.
Do You Deserve It?
Demanding respect and earning respect are two different things.
Respect is not something that you get immediately, like an order
of fries. It is something that is established over a period
of time. Respect is earned by how well you do your —thing.—
Your —thing— can fall into several different categories. For example,
think of your after-school job. How much respect does the manager
give the worker who neither comes to work on time nor works
very hard? Probably not a lot.
Then there—s John, who comes to work 10 minutes early, who always
finds things to do, and is polite to customers. He respects
his job, and his supervisors are likely to respect him in return.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you work, someone
will give you a hard time. You could be a hard worker, but a
co-worker or supervisor still treats you with disrespect. How
do you deal with a situation like that? I—ve learned that it—s
not likely that you—ll get along with everyone everywhere. Sometimes
it—s better to change your situation than to endure put-downs
Teachers seem to respect the hard workers. I don—t necessarily
mean the people who get the good grades. Hard workers are the
ones who will go out of their way to do extra credit, who stay
after school for extra help. They are not the kids who cheat
to get an A.
In work and at school, you need to review your own willingness
to do your part. In other words, do you merit respect?
What do you do if you have older brothers or sisters who went
to school before you? Respect is tricky, especially if he or
she had a bad reputation. What if, instead, your brother was
the model of the —perfect— student? Teachers and kids may assume
that you will be the same. What—s a kid to do?
First of all, it is important to be yourself. Maybe your
sister wasn—t the best-dressed person. That doesn—t mean that
you have to be that way. By holding your head high and respecting
yourself, people will realize quickly that your sister is your
sister, and you are you. Only your lack of self-respect allows
you to live in her shadow.
Being yourself is hard sometimes. What if people don—t respect
you for who you are? I found this out in junior high. All of
my teachers knew my sisters. Both were smart and successful.
I was smart, but I didn—t have the 96 percent grade-point average
that they had had. My —things— were swimming and music. I really
enjoyed these activities and experienced success in both. I
became known in my hometown as either —the swimmer— or —the
musician.— I had been selected for all-state for swimming, flute
and singing. I was able to forge my own identity and not live
in my sisters— shadows.
When we have a boyfriend or a girlfriend in our lives, it is very
easy to become attached. We often shift the focus from —me—
to —us.— It—s important to think of your significant other—but
it—s also important to think about what—s best for you.
People also associate the word respect with not having
sex. Having respect for yourself also means having respect for
your body. Your virginity is a special gift that you can only
give to that special someone once. After that it is not quite
the same. Have enough respect for yourself to wait, emotionally
The Ten Commandments include two (six and nine) which address
this kind of respect. On the physical plane, there are a lot
of diseases out there that certainly won—t respect your body
or your life if you don—t.
Honor Your Parents
How much respect you have for yourself is mirrored in the way
you treat others. Think about your parents. Do your parents
trust you when you are out with your friends? How did they come
to that decision?
Maybe one night you came in an hour past your curfew. Your parents
want you to respect their rules and their wishes. After all,
you do live —under their roof.— (If I had a quarter for every
time my parents said that, I could retire at 22.) But if you
respect your parents— wishes, they might extend your curfew.
They will be more likely to trust your judgment if you respect
Here is a prime scenario. My mother had this thing about not going
to the mall on Friday nights. I never understood why, but she
did. One day, after a Friday swim meet, my friends and I got
dropped off at the mall. I called her to pick us up there. She
did, but she was furious and grounded me. No Friday nights at
the mall for me!
I knew my mother—s preferences and I ignored them. I see that
today as lack of respect.
Another part of respect for your parents is respect for their
beliefs. Some teenagers demonstrate respect by getting involved
in their parish. For example, Jean is in the church choir and
is an altar server, babysitter and president of the youth group.
Why did she get involved? Her mom brought her and her two sisters
to Mass every week. After a while, she decided to do more herself.
She says, —I would feel so cool. I felt like a part of the Mass.
Before, I—d sit there and watch. When you get involved in the
liturgy, you feel like you—re actually doing something.—
You don—t have to do exactly what your parents do. The idea is
to support the parish in your own way, respecting your own gifts
and preferences. You might choose to teach younger children
in the religious education program. When you respect your church—s
beliefs and outreach by choosing to participate, your gifts
will be respected in return.
Ed Christian, a high school junior, says that he got involved
in his parish council so he could make a difference. Ed says,
—I am expected to speak and give new ideas.— As a result, the
members of the parish council respect his opinion, his vote
and, more importantly, respect him as much as any other council
Focus on Friends
Having respect for others will not only pay off in the quality
of your friendships, but also help the way others see you. If
you treat others with respect, they are more likely to treat
you with that same respect in return.
A friend of mine was talking about something a girl had done the
night before: Another girl said, —If you are gossiping about
someone, then someone is probably gossiping about you.— How
often have you had that happen? If each person resisted the
temptation to gossip, maybe we wouldn—t have to worry about
others talking about us behind our backs.
People probably gossiped about Jesus when he came to Jerusalem.
Few people knew who he was or what his message was. They heard
his claims secondhand. Would you have resisted the widespread
gossip about his extraordinary claims?
In John—s Gospel, Jesus says to the high priest, —I have spoken
publicly to the world. I have always taught in a synagogue or
in the temple area where all the Jews gather, and in secret
I have said nothing— (John 18:20). Jesus was challenging all
of us to study his teaching for ourselves and draw our own conclusions,
not to rely on hearsay.
Try going for a week without gossiping about anyone. This would
include Jim—s new girlfriend, Sarah—s horrible performance in
the school play or the way Joey kisses up to the teacher. You—ll
find yourself biting your tongue for the first few days! By
gossiping about others, you are giving in to some sort of need
to degrade someone else. How necessary is that? How would you
feel if someone were saying those things about you?
People in general do not like to listen to a person who complains
all the time. How much respect would you have for the world
around you if everyone complained hour after hour? The people
who have a lot of self-respect probably don—t complain all the
time. If they have something bad to say, they simply don—t say
it. Everyone is likely to say something negative at some point;
after all, we are human. Just whittle away at the quantity.
The key to respect is the word you. The key to disrespect,
however, is I. One girl I know never learned this lesson
in high school. One person pointed out that in every sentence
this girl speaks, she uses the word I, in reference to
herself. I thought she must have better things to talk about.
So one day I listened. Sure enough, all she did was talk about
herself. Some of the things she talked about were rather trivial
too—such as what she—d eaten for dinner.
I lost a lot of respect for her after that week. It is important
to respect yourself, but not to the extreme where you forget
about others around you. I—m not suggesting that you completely
delete the word I from your vocabulary. But if you find
that you only say the word I in conversations, then maybe
you should replace it with the word you. People will
have a lot more respect for you if you take an interest in them
and don—t simply build yourself up.
God made everyone different for a reason. We are
all individuals. It is important for us to discover who we are.
If you stand up for what you believe in, people will respect
what you do, because you respect it.
What if someone at school didn—t like the fact that you were Catholic?
Would you switch faiths simply because your friends told you
to? If you believe in your faith strongly, you shouldn—t have
to feel insecure around people.
The Church can help you respect yourself as well. Think of all
the things that the Church has instilled in you that have to
do with respect. What about the Ten Commandments? —Honor (respect)
your father and your mother....—
What about resistance to changing trends? What if your brother
came home with an earring in his ear, and your father—s response
was, —Do you want an evening gown and some pearls to go with
that?— How can you be yourself when there are others who won—t
approve and respect what you do? How can you recognize what
choices really help you to become your best self?
First of all, it is important to understand that there is always
going to be something that you do that someone else—whether
that be a parent, teacher or friend—will not like. Other people
may not like the clothes you wear or the music you listen to.
How do you get them to respect what you like? This can be tricky.
Each person is different, and you have to deal with each situation
For example, if you are going on a job interview, you might want
to take out the nose ring—just for the time being. Some people
can—t get past first impressions. It may be best to swallow
your pride the first time and then gradually open up.
If your parents don—t like the styles of clothes
you choose, pull out a picture of them from 20 years ago. Remind
them of what they wore and see what they say. Most likely they
won—t challenge you quite as heavily.
So the next time someone tries to change you or degrades what
you do, or when you start to make fun of something, remember
the seven-letter key to success: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.