I had just been discharged after a stepedectomy surgery in my ear. After a week of convalescence in my mother’s house, as I was returning home, my mother cautioned my daughter Meenakshi then aged about 9, that I had been advised by my doctor not to climb stairs. Full of responsibility, my little angel assured my mom that it was her duty to keep an eye on me. Within a few hours of returning home my daughter realized that she needed a particular color top for her school day. I took her to the nearby store and swiftly climbed up to the second floor to the kid’s section. Happy to have found what she wanted, it was only when we began to walk down for the billing that Meenakshi realized that she had lapsed in following my mom’s instructions. Full of remorse, she insisted that I give her my mobile phone to talk to my mother. Trying to pacify her and at the same time not wanting to unnecessarily worry my mom, I told her “Kanna! Don’t tell Ammamma. You can see I am fine. She would unnecessarily worry. She need never know”. Full of dignity, Meenakshi looked into my eyes and said “Ma! I Know!” Even today two years later, my eyes fill with pride when I remember that moment. With enormous maturity, she spoke to my mom, not hiding the fact of my disobeying the doctor’s advice, at the same time not worrying my mom about my condition. That day I learnt from my nine year old that ‘respect’ is what you gift yourself.
There have been occasions when friends have complained that another does not show enough respect to them. Well, the only thing I have control over is my respect for my self, my sentiments, my values. Any respect displayed to another is just a manifestation of my self-respect. In that sense, any lack of respect displayed by another only reveals the insecurity & lack of sanctity he/she has for ones own self.
A friend was discussing about how his father had disclosed to him his intension of leaving a family property to a distant relation. However, as legalities & costs involved were an unnecessary drain of money, the father had merely stated his wish, confident that his son would fulfill the same when the time came. Another friend present during the discussion promptly replied ‘No body respects verbal wishes. When even a written will is contested in the court of law…’ I stood back as I listened to this! The word ‘Nobody’ resounded in my ears. I know I would honor ones wishes – written or verbal. So I would never have used the word ‘nobody’. Could it imply that the friend did not trust himself to satisfy a verbal wish? Can anyone proclaim ‘Nobody Is Truthful’ if they themselves were so? Every time we begin ‘Nobody cares …’ we are attesting that we don’t care either. When ‘I’ am confident of my self-respect, could I ever question another’s interest? Like the friend who was sure that even written wills were contested, those who are unsure of themselves keep demanding respect from others. They need rules, laws, by-laws, licenses, sanctions and the whole works – not to adhere to but to find a loop hole! Those who follow their inner voice and respect that call, can never disrespect anything outside. So the next time someone doesn’t give you the respect you deserve, don’t beg for it or command it. It can come only on its own, only when they learn to respect themselves. Same way, next time you seem to display disrespect towards anything, remember some where your ego, your self image has a crack. Heal it a fast as you can.
Having said that, I now need to expand on what I mean by respect! Addressing someone with a title, standing up, falling at their feet, never speaking your mind in their presence – these are not always natural expressions of respect for every body. True, may be there are those pure souls who express themselves this way but most often these are mere ‘exhibition’ of exalted egos and rigid social conditioning – nothing to do with real respect. If he respects me he wouldn’t marry that girl – cries the mother. It is because he respects himself and his own opinion that he takes that decision. Freedom of choice is the birth right of every human being. Freedom is always taken – not asked or begged for. However if his self respect is true, he would equally have the dignity not to barter with his duties & responsibilities. Out of his self respect will arise both his freedom & his respect for the outside world. They are not “either or”. Freedom and respect to the without are two arms of self respect. They co-exist most harmoniously within the individual. Neither can exist without the other. Freedom not born out of self respect is irresponsibility. Show of respect for others by being meek if not manifested by self respect is egoistic self-centeredness. Yes! Being weak is self-centeredness for it massages your sense of seeking attention. So many terms, so many implications, so very easy to get carried in the wrong direction!
‘Sanctity’ is a word that perhaps every one needs to relearn. If the ancient Hindus sanctified everything from cows to hills as God’s manifestation, today’s quantum physicists treat every thought that passes our mind with sanctity. The world is no longer believed to be one of observation. Scientifically, existence today calls it a participatory universe. We participate in the making of existence. When ‘I’ can make or break the world, so can you! Understanding this each and every particle is sanctified by its very existence. When I comprehend what ‘I’ do to this existence, I also appreciate what everything other than me also does. When I truly respect ‘me’ for what I am, I cannot but respect every other particle for what it is. Every thing is sanctified. Respect is not a term of outward display but an intrinsic feeling given automatically. Only when such respect and sanctity flow naturally towards everything does the word ‘freedom’ really achieve its true meaning. Such a freedom is not born out of disrespect for anyone or anything .But is born out of true self –expression which is incapable of dis-respecting anything!
Written by Gita Krishna Raj | Published in infinithoughts in May 2008