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Give Some,
Get Some

by Kathleen M. Piech

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 earned.

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 preferences.

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 and disrespect.

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?

Respect Yourself

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 and physically.

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 their rules.

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 member.

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.

Respect Ability

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 individually.

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.

Kathleen M. Piech wrote this Youth Update during her internship at St. Anthony Messenger Press. She is now a graduate of Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio.


The Respect Test

How much self-respect do you have?
Take this quiz and find out!

  1. When I go to the mall, I go to the store and buy what I like, and not what my friends like.
  2. If someone offers me a beer or a cigarette, I can say no and still feel O.K.
  3. If my friend upsets me, I am afraid to work things out by talking to her—I'd rather just tell her off.
  4. I got my nose pierced because my friend dared me to.
  5. When I come in later than my curfew, I make excuses to my parents and beg not to be grounded.
  6. I am able to tell my friends what I need.
  7. I give 100 percent effort (honest effort) to all that I do.
  8. I am like my siblings in every way.
  9. I do everything my boyfriend/girlfriend tells me to do.
  10. I have self-respect.

Give yourself the following points:

Agree 2   Disagree 1
Agree 2   Disagree 1
Agree 1   Disagree 2
Agree 1   Disagree 2
Agree 1   Disagree 2
Agree 2   Disagree 1
Agree 2   Disagree 1
Agree 1   Disagree 2
Agree 1   Disagree 2
Agree 2   Disagree 1


Score: 20: You have a lot of self-respect! Good for you! 17-19: You're on the right path. Keep it up! 14-16: Smile at yourself in the mirror. You need to like the person you see there. 10-13: Your feeling low. Reach out to someone for encouragement today.


Lizz Costello (15), Heather Marshall (16), Amanda Scott (15), Chris Tobin (16) and Alison Walker (16), all members of St. Mary Parish in Lockport, New York, met with the author to critique this issue. Carol Costello, the parish religious education coordinator, gathered the group together.


If you are the older brother or sister, can you make it easier instead of harder for the next ones in your family?


Your personal challenge is to use your own gifts. You cannot prevent teachers or anyone else from comparing your brothers and sisters to you. What you can do is help younger members of your family to identify their gifts and talents and show your own respect and admiration for what they are able to do. If you (and your parents) appreciate them as unique individuals, they won't be so tempted to compete with your reputation.


What can you do if your parents don't respect your choice of friends?


The best thing I think you can do is to show your parents that you can be trusted in other areas of your life. Observe parental rules, do your schoolwork and do what you're asked around the house. If your parents don't care for your friends, you can point to all these reasons why you can be trusted. You can also ask to have your friends at your home with your parents in the house. That's a good way to show that you have nothing to hide and to help your parents learn why you've chosen these friends.


In those "he said, she said" situations, it's hard to know whose version to accept and to act responsibly on the facts. Any advice44


Don't gossip. If you feed information to the chain of gossip, it usually gets worse. Jesus advised his followers to get their information firsthand. If you don't care enough to do that, you should ask yourself if you're really after the truth. If you repeat half-truths or lies, you have no respect for someone's reputation. This gives you little reason to expect similar respect for your own.


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