Kindness & Respect

I’ve read that the key to long standing relationship is kindness. I’ve also felt myself a near-craving for respect: a compass, both attracting and repelling. Respect: re-spect, a second look? Could it be that simple?

It’s a truism that we crave, or demand from others, what we are most incapable of giving ourselves. This has certainly been true for me. So long off-balance as the internalized abuser berated me for all the shortcomings, real or imagined, it could think of throwing at me, insuring by the thrall of its dominion that I would not escape its wrath. In retrospect: looking back, a little removed from a second look; but such a different meaning…. In retrospect, I’m amazed at how long it took me to break that bondage. equally relieved: lightened again? that it happened at all. So many never free themselves.

Respect, self-respect – A useful term even if the “self’ it refers to is but a psychological fiction. – It is the foundation of our internal relationship. It characterizes how the assorted aspects of perception and behavior glimpsed by our conscious awareness and reflected in how we construct our sense of others – a bouncing off and bending blending of perception and understanding….

Kindness, and Regard: another form of looking again, with echoes of protection in the long connection between watching and watching-out-for…. These are the defenders against coercion. Love is too distended a sack to hold these meanings in their proper places without applying some tighter boundaries. Take self-love versus self-respect; the first is either meaningless, or a euphemism for narcissistic tendencies. The latter, though often girded with Spartan trappings, is austere, yet in a way self-dramatizing. Still, it is much closer to hitting such a fleeting mark.

In our lapsed state, as self-conscious beings flickering in and out of the flow of existence as self-reflection batters and tosses us about, we require: want again? a touchstone on which to remember: put back together, the ground of our being. This is why we long for Kindness and Respect and need it most from ourselves to ourselves. These are gifts. As gifts, their value is tied to the sacrifice involved in their achievement. Too cheaply won, they are meaningless. Too parsimoniously given, they may be too little too late.

* * *

We pile on duties, attempting to force utility upon ourselves and others. This coercion, as with all others, destroys what it seeks to preserve, and rends a tear in the fabric of all Being. It quickly becomes the rationalization for all sorts of violence directed outwards, inwards, or both with all the self-justification of any expediency. In the name of such duty – however it is characterized – we wander farther and farther from the mark. Kindness and Respect don’t work that way. Keeping these parameters in mind, holding our actions to their distinction, is a constant corrective. It sees through all the shaky justifications. Under their guidance we cannot maintain a coercive stance. It does not lead us into passivity either. Our actions become more clear and focused. We know why we are doing, or not doing, whatever action strikes our awareness as possible.

Since loosing intimate connection with all who surround us, as aggregation replaced inter-relationship in our lives, we’ve been in thrall of rules and laws. We’ve made up lists and ascribed them to gods, God, or Nature; to provide them with the power of authority. Whatever is unsupported will still fall, whether we claim gravity as a law or not. In the contemplation of taking a life, we take on a portentous responsibility, whether it is prohibited by commandment or statute, or in defiance of whatever authority we hold dear. These attempts to codify right-action have not been able to replace Kindness and Respect, just as the rails of a train track may seem to help us cross a landscape; but commit us to an unwavering path, unable to jump the smallest impediment or side-step the least flaw, while an open “trackless waste” can be navigated by our internal compass. It is not proof against any failure; but at least we avoid the horror of the unwavering, head-long rush towards disaster, almost guaranteed by the codified-life. This is where the second look: respect comes in, and yes, it is quite simple. By refusing the head-long plunge into the future, by giving ourselves and others that second look, we can adjust our paths in the light of kindness and refuse the confines of coercion.

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4 thoughts on “Kindness & Respect

  1. Good one. Dalai Lama says, “my religion is kindness”. Jesus says, ‘love one another.” Easy to say, but between the word and the deed falls the shadow. That culturally maintained darkness that stands between us and the light. We have all been abused, and indeed we are constantly abused even now. And as you point out, we have internalized the abuse, so as to never forget it, to constantly reenact it in all our affairs. As Gurdjieff pointed out, the world is a gigantic pain factory, and we are both its wardens and its captives.

    Where do we find relief from this constant torment? Buddha had some good insights. Meditation has been a major factor in my own ongoing recovery process. A sangha, fellowship of those awakening to and sharing the stories of their suffering, and the triumphs of their recovery is indispensable. Reading Alice Miller helped me a lot, especially with understanding the universal unconsciousness and denial that characterizes the public attitude. The price some of us have paid to become aware of the omnipresent, universal nature of abuse is not one that many have chosen/been forced to pay. Thus we are often limited to those who also know this dark “secret” to share at depth knowledge that can only come from long experience.

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