by Cheryl Crockett
HAVE YOU EVER STOPPED to wonder what it is you most want from friends and family? What do they provide that gives you satisfaction, a feeling of being whole, a sense of fulfillment?
Do you want them to accept as you are, flaws and all? Or do you wish to have especially honest friends, even if that means exposing some of your faults to you? Do you treasure those who will listen without criticism to your opinions? Or do you want respect from your colleagues at work more than anything?
It might be you desire a combination of these, depending on what’s happening in your life. It’s worth thinking about.
In one of my college classes, assigned reading included “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl. Though the title lacks inclusivity, the book’s contents were unforgettable. After extensive research, Frankl found when people neared the end of their lives, what they needed most to know was that “they mattered.” They wanted to have made a difference. To me, that message was powerful.
Love or respect
Years ago, when I worked as an administrative assistant for a national church body, I had a similar revelation. I invited a top executive to lunch to make a case for what qualities I thought he should seek when hiring the church’s first HR director.
Though this powerful executive seemed aloof–even feared by many–he impressed me that day with his grace. I found him candid and a thoughtful listener.
The most memorable part of our time together was a vulnerable comment he made. He said he decided years ago that he felt it was more important to be respected than loved.
That experience was more than 40 years ago, but his comment stayed with me. It reminds me how important respect is. But I wondered why he couldn’t expect both.
How we matter
In what ways will each of us “have mattered” when we look back on our lives? Through scientific discoveries? By writing moving and imaginative stories? By raising a happy family? By providing for others’ health care? By bringing laughter into many lives? By leading a large staff to provide much-needed services or products? By “being there” for someone else? By showing up for work each day?
The list is endless. And this planet will be a happier place when each of us decides to withhold judgment about which skills and gifts are worthy of respect and which are not. What we can do is work harder at respecting each other, regardless of circumstances.
Our society should replay Aretha Franklin’s “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” refrain in our heads from time to time. And if I want respect from you, I’ll act in ways that earn that respect. Then, it follows that you would like respect from me as well. How hard can that be?
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
I know it’s harder than ever these days to respond with kindness to what feels like snarky behavior. Opinions abound these days. Mean comments on social media can bait us into a mean response—a nonproductive conversation.
It could be time to take a break from social media or the news. We should decide instead to enjoy a favorite hobby. We could have a picnic with friends, go for a walk, or bike ride. We could write a letter to a long-lost friend, bake some cookies, do something kind (and unexpected) for a friend or neighbor. You never know what a difference your kindness might make and how much your actions matter. And I’m guessing you’ll feel better!
It’s up to each of us to make this world a better place. Government, religion, and other institutions can go only so far; the rest is up to us. Let’s be good to each other. Matter!!
Cheryl Crockett–mom of three and grandma of two–is retired and does volunteer writing and editing. She and her husband, Larry, (professor at Augsburg University) split their time between Minnesota and Tennessee. This blog first ran in Sonia Solomonson’s Way2Grow newsletter. Sonia is a frequent contributor to Gather magazine.