Aretha-Franklin-by-AP-1, Respect, Abolition Now!
Aretha Franklin released “Respect” in 1967 when she was 25. Otis Redding wrote it, but she made it an all-time classic. – Photo: AP

by Tara Belcher

The legendary Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, belted out in her song: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!” Take a minute to consider what respect means to you. People from diverse cultures may differ in interpretation and perception. Dictionaries offer slight differences in their meaning and application.

For instance, NTC’s American English Learner’s Dictionary defines respect in the usage as a noun and transitive verb: “n. the polite behavior one shows to someone whom one honors or admires; tv. to feel or show someone or something respect,” respectively.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the use of respect as a transitive verb: “1. To feel or show deferential regard for.” One of several definitions of “respect” in the Webster’s New World Dictionary and Thesaurus is a noun: “consideration or regard.”

However accurate each definition may be, it’s a mere word if not viewed in the context of its application by individuals or groups actively engaged in social settings.

“Respect” is often misdefined in language and misrepresented in action. Perhaps a more thorough analysis would be conducted by perceiving its meaning in light of the golden rule. This involves assessing one’s sense of self.

If an individual is stagnant in self-actualizing and lacks self-love, it’s projected into every area of interaction with others. Respect for the self is a direct variation of respect for creation, which extends beyond humankind.

Here in the U.S., we’re reared in a society with a code of conduct and expected behavior ascribed by law. Yet a higher order supersedes all – it governs the universe. Each individual has a responsibility to be a good steward of the planet.

Ergo, that which is freely given as sustenance for humankind is to be respected as a show of gratitude and honor to the life-giver who created it. At some point, we have all fallen short and become wasteful, negligent and, yes, disrespectful.

So common has this negligence become that in everyday living people perpetuate its ominous cycle, generation to generation. Earth’s resources diminish as people grasp for more and more, stepping on whomever gets in the way of getting what’s wanted. Notice: I didn’t say “needed.”

This cultural phenomenon is infectious and has spread like cancer, skewing the perception of what respect for one another really means. As a whole, this society has become morally deficient.

From the White House to Hollywood, the aversion to good living has become more pronounced. There aren’t any filters. Blatant disrespect from one end to the other. Thus, it’s up to individuals to make a change to restore a degree of normalcy amidst the chaos.

I’ve asked a few women to share their perspectives on respect. They assert that respect is total kindness and appreciation towards another person when earned; that it’s morals and values – the way you carry yourself and talk; that respect is unconditional and can be shown from a distance; that it’s learned by observing others who show respect. There aren’t any right or wrong perceptions – for these women brought and shared their personal experiences to the table.

To expound a bit on the unconditional definition: we must consider that all of us are from different backgrounds. It’s not expected that we all get along. However, Paul, being inspired by God, advised us in Romans 12:18, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Some may misconstrue this and feel as if they’re entitled to impose their desires on others. Paul had a tip for that as well: “Make it your ambition and definitely endeavor to live quietly and peacefully, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands … so that you may bear yourselves becomingly and be correct and honorable, and command the respect of the outside world” (I Thessalonians 4:11-12). Black people, Ponder that for a minute.

Yes, we’ve all fallen short at some time in our lives, as aforementioned. We’re here, right? Yet, God forbid we return to the Motherland in a worse state than when we left it. It’s time to do some self-examining and see where we, as individuals, have fallen off.

Respect one another. Yes, even if you disagree – do so respectfully.

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T” – find out what it means.

Send our sister some love and light: Tara Belcher, 211925, Tutwiler CF F1-21A, 8966 US Hwy 231 North, Wetumpka, AL 36092.