Valuing one’s own existence and the existence of others, as they are, is respect.  True respect is not connected to a person’s social position or role, nor simply to their capacities or talents.  It is directly related to the uniqueness which they contribute to life.  So to respect someone is to give them a space to be, and a space within my heart, appreciating their value as a unique human actor on this world stage.

To value or respect myself involves a process of acceptance and evaluation of my self, as I am and as I would like to be.  But, for that to take place successfully, without fear or pressure, there is a need to see myself from a spiritual perspective, for that is the point of reality from which it is easy to develop my specialities and diminish any weaknesses without negativity towards myself or becoming egocentric.

In ancient Greece, one of the greatest spiritual directives was “know thyself”; this did not simply refer to name, or position, but to know the innate, non physical aspect of being.

Respect comes when there is faith in the self, a faith which gives internal peace and stability – very creative and necessary assets in the modern day.  Where there is such faith, I am automatically freed from fear, jealousy or irritation, despite another’s difference.  Where there is no respect for the self, any difference creates intolerance and chaos, whereas for those with self-respect, difference offers a means to appreciate others’ roles and significance – it is a basis for harmony and unity.

Humanity is in dire need of respect, for both the self and others. Then communication could happen at a deep and fulfilling level.  Talking is not communicating.  Communication is the art of creating and extending friendship; an art quite lost today because of, firstly, our dependence on pseudo communication techniques, and secondly, our inability to move beyond ourselves and listen to another;  we are often too busy to stop, be quite- and listen; in fact, we do not even listen to ourselves but rush, work, talk and become overloaded by a jumble of noise and relationships which do not permit communication.

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The purest fruit of genuine communication is love.  Love listens, understands and heals, but only if it is clean, non-possessive, unattached and unconditional.  Those who respect themselves know how to love.  They do not think about the how of it, as it is as natural to them as the rays of light emanating from the sun.

One who genuinely loves, shares himself without losing, without compromising and without imposing, since one can love properly when thee is completeness within.  This completeness, or harmony of being, is called self-respect and people arrive at such a state when they accept to learn and change themselves for the better.  Of course, only those who realise the necessity for personal change can perform this miracle.  This miracle within is the achievement of a spiritual consciousness which enables me to balance myself with all things and all people, maintaining my innate dignity and purity.

When human beings are trapped in desires for pleasure and power, every thread of respect for the self and others is lost, because no allowance is made for the natural and rightful order of things.

We can see this more clearly when it comes to nature.  Now there is a concern for the environment because humanity and nature have reached an obvious crisis point at which it must escape disaster.  A return to respecting the laws and needs of nature is taking place.  Obviously this respect, to a large degree, is not the ardour of a genuine love for nature, but what has come about of necessity.  Love and necessity generate different types of respect.

The religion of nature is a rhythm of balance and order.  Her patterns and laws could sustain our lives, but disrespectful human interference has produced sicknesses of all kinds – physically, environmentally and psychologically.

We realise that respect for nature should not be borne merely out of fear of the consequences, but from a humility which humans need to properly understand.  Humility provides the openness to learning that makes us flexible; it makes us egoless enough to realise that there are laws above mankind which are the standards of life and in turn protect human life.  It is good to realise that we do not know it all; that there are still things to discover; we cannot own the earth or the sky or sea; they are ours when we respect them and do not seek ownership.  In fact, everything comes close to us, whether people or nature, when we do not seek to possess or manipulate.

When I maintain a genuine respect for myself, others and nature, automatically any attitude of exploitation will be quite foreign to my way of thinking.

And finally, yet of supreme importance, is the significance of respect for God.  Not necessarily the traditional concept of God which, with its fear and punishment and guilt associations, has alienated mankind from Him, but a God who is the divine giver, the co-ordinator of spiritual harmony the One who eternally holds within Himself the universal spiritual values of human life. Not a manipulator, but the One who facilitates the inculcation of values to anyone who, with honesty and respect for their fellow beings, wishes to be and do that which is right.

Through silence we are thus able to come close to ourselves, to nature and to the universal being, and are thus able to gain the understanding and the divine strength to integrate and realise our spiritual values of life by consciously bringing them into our life and actions.

©Brahma Kumaris [UK]

Anthony Strano is Director of the Brahma Kumaris Centres in Greece.