Give respect if you want it

Once again it’s time to say goodbye to another class of high school seniors heading off to seek their fortune in the world beyond 12th grade.

We at The New Era wish you well.

As you embark on a new chapter of life, we’d like to offer some advice: Make it a point to respect yourself and others.

“Respect” is a common term these days, particularly among some young people.

You see it on walls. You hear it on sports talk shows. You hear it from rappers.

In certain social groups, failure to “respect” the wrong person can bring you a violent end. Watch Fox News for a few evenings and you’ll get the picture.

Most of us are not that edgy or that violent, but all of us want people to respect us. What we need to remember is that respect begins at home, with ourselves.

You have reached the end of at least 12 years of schooling, for many of you all of it right here in Sweet Home. You’ve had lessons in social interaction and deportment drilled into you. You’ve seen the posters on the walls in your classrooms, reminding you to be polite and conscientious and responsible.

As you leave, the question is: Did you get it?

Respect for others means that you recognize that you may have to give a little here and there in life.

When an elderly person interacts with you, how do you react? Are you impatient or do you see an opportunity to observe and glean from someone who has lived three or four times longer than you – maybe learn something helpful?

When you run into someone with whom you don’t agree, do you dismiss them as an idiot or do you give consideration to where they’re at and listen to what they’re trying to say?

When someone in authority over you tells you to do something, do you react with hostility or do you recognize that respecting authority is a necessary part of being a good citizen?

Respect for others, for authority starts with respect for ourselves. If we expect others to be responsible citizens, we must be responsible as well.

One of the staffers here at The New Era recalls attending a fifth-grade graduation ceremony in which the principal requested that, during the presentation, audience members please hold applause until the end, when everyone could applaud together.

It was amazing how many parents totally ignored her. When their fifth-grader marched up, they would erupt in loud whistles and screams, like their kid had just won the Olympics. It occurred to our staffer that these parents were doing little to promote civic responsibility and respect in their own and other children. Good luck, middle school teachers!

Respect sometimes means holding your tongue when you feel like ripping into somebody. Too many good teachers have quit because they’ve gotten sick of being demeaned constantly by students who had no respect for them. If those students had respect for themselves, they wouldn’t be stooping to the level of spraying expletives at someone who has the painful task of trying to help them.

Respect is contagious. When you think of people you actually do respect, don’t you usually get the feeling that they respect you? That’s the way it works.

When gang-bangers or rap artists demand that the world give them respect, they aren’t getting true respect. They may get begrudging, fearful acquiescence, but they’re not getting what the dictionary defines as “special consideration or high regard, high esteem.”

You can be successful without respecting others, but it’s a tyrannical success and anyone who’s ever had a jerk for a boss knows what we’re talking about. You’re not really respected when people would love to see you 6 feet under.

So think about this now. You’ve already had 17 or 18 years to develop your approach to life, but it’s not too late to adjust your rudder a little.

If you want to be successful in life, then give consideration to others as well as to yourself.

We can leave you with no better advice than the biblical passage known as the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have others do to you.

If you do that, you won’t miss.