A recent post in the Io Triumphe!, the alumnae magazine of Albion College (my wife’s alma mater), highlighted an effort by 75 student athletes to promote respect despite differences among students. Some of their social media posts quoted here showed thoughtfulness and empathy:
- We don’t say she wanted it because sexual assault is never the victim’s fault.
- I don’t say you’re crazy because it minimizes human emotion and those affected by mental illness.
- I don’t say retarded because there is nothing dumb or stupid about Hannah (her special needs friend).
- We don’t say that’s so gay because the words stupid and gay are not interchangeable.
In these days when civil debate is eclipsed by prejudicial outbursts and name-calling of all sorts, these profound and important statements stand out as examples of speaking with respect for others. They attempt to bridge the gaps that divide us and remind me of one of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein: “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.” Everyone deserves respect, and this can reverse the toxic effects of prejudice and hate.
But as important as our words are, how we think about each other may be even more important. Best-selling author and behavioral scientist Dr. Steve Maraboli asks, “How would your life be different if…you stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about those you encounter? Then he suggests, “Let today be the day…you look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.”
I would go one step further and say that if our views of each other are strictly based on
behavior and looks – we are missing a deeper dimension of our identity. And I would suggest that today be the day we treat each other with increased dignity and respect out of a recognition that each of us has a spiritual identity, created by God, Spirit. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and reverence as a child of this divine heritage.
Jesus Christ taught that all mankind have their source in God. In the prayer he taught us, he opened with the words, “Our Father…” – emphasizing the fact that we all come from God. That means that no matter the geographical location, the ethnicity involved or the language spoken, we are all part of God’s family. St. Paul realized this and wrote in a letter to the Ephesians trying to unify the Jews and Gentiles he was addressing, “For he (Jesus) is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;” (Eph 2: 14).
Mary Baker Eddy caught this vision of the universality of God’s family. Through her deep study of the Bible she concluded that understanding our spiritual nature as children of God breaks down the ignorance that builds barriers between diverse individuals and groups. She taught that Jesus’ teachings were a provable Science — divine laws that produce abundant benefits, not only for one’s individual salvation and health, but also for the healing of societal ills.
In her seminal work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she wrote, “One infinite God, good unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself;’ annihilates social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man; and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed.”
It’s time for all of us to catch this vision of universal love. We are all children of one common Father – a loving God who cherishes His children and creates them to naturally reflect deep affection and dignity. Then we can join together as Aretha Franklin sang it many years ago: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.”
By Thomas (Tim) Mitchinson