The word respect comes from the same root as spectator or spectacle. To respect a person, or a community, or an issue, literally means to see again, or to see anew.
This is bad news. Respect is often described as a baseline, a starting point, something we expect people to take for granted, which is why we are dismayed by people who are disrespectful. They seem unwilling to play by the rules of basic courtesy.
To say that respect is a new way of seeing someone, a conscientious choice to give real consideration to someone’s point-of-view, experience and personhood, and to say that we have to do this AGAIN, well that means respect requires extra work.
And come on. Nobody wants extra work.
We sometimes hear: “Why can’t people just respect each other?”
Unfortunately, respect isn’t something that happens automatically or easily. Assumptions and bias come automatically and easily. Labels and dismissiveness come automatically and easily. Respect is harder than that.
Respect means we deliberately check our hurtful impulses and look deeper, pay attention to things that we might’ve overlooked, try harder to understand someone else.
I can only respect you if I’ve really made an effort to see you. Again.
The Table is a Christian community seeking transformation:
from greed toward generosity
from violence toward peacemaking
from isolation toward neighborliness
from fear toward faith