Friday, July 12, 2013

Respect everyone: the wisdom of St. Peter and Malcolm X

St. Peter and Malcolm X said, "Respect everyone." It's excellent advice.

The full King James Version of 1 Peter 2:17 is "Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king." The italicized men means the word was added by the translators. A modern version could be, "Respect everyone. Love your community. Worship God. Honor your leader."

The full Malcolm X quote is "Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery." The strength of the second part makes some readers miss the stress on the first: Until people put a hand on you, treat them with respect. If they put a hand on you, defend yourself—but even when it's over, be respectful. Malcolm undoubtedly knew Muhammad's sayings include "Do not speak ill of the dead."

Note that the second part of Malcolm's quote, the support for self-defense, only applies offline. On the internet, no one can lay a hand on you.

Peter's "honor the king" and Malcolm's "obey the law" do not mean you should not work to change governments or laws. It means we make a better world by remembering to treat everyone with respect, no matter who they are or what they've done.

Some people say respect is a two-way street, but conditional respect is not respect—every mother knows "they did it first" is no excuse for bad behavior. Respect is a one-way street. Respect yourself, and you can treat anyone with respect, no matter how badly they treat you.

I am not fond of organized religion, which means even Unitarian-Universalists can be too restrictive for me, but I love their seventh principle: "Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part."

Who is excluded from that?

A few favorite quotes:

"Show respect to all people, but grovel to none." — attributed to Tecumseh

"If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die." - Maya Angelou

"Civility costs nothing, and buys everything." – Mary Wortley Montagu

“I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.” ― Albert Einstein

“Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized.” — Albert Einstein

“You should respect each other and refrain from disputes; you should not, like water and oil, repel each other, but should, like milk and water, mingle together.” — Buddha

"Men are respectable only as they respect." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.” — Voltaire

"For me, politeness is a sine qua non of civilization." -Robert A. Heinlein

“I fear no one, but I respect everyone.” — Roger Federer

“I don't have to agree with you to like you or respect you.” —Anthony Bourdain

"Do not contemplate your own good qualities, but contemplate the good qualities of others, and respect everyone as a servant would." —Atisha, Kadampa Buddhism


An Essay by Einstein -- The World As I See It

Golden Rule - Wikipedia

Name calling - Wikipedia: "Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement lists name calling as the worst type of argument in a disagreement."

Related: On name-calling and ad hominem, the bottom-feeders of Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement


For anyone who thinks being respectful doesn't mean speaking up: Malcolm X and Simon Peter both died because they continued to speak up.