By Scott Westerman
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I believe that we could mitigate our most challenging problems if we could inculcate two magic words into everything we do: Kindness and Respect
My good friend, Mark Hollis and I have offices that are vastly different. His is filled with mementos of magic moments he has helped create in the history of athletics at Michigan State. My walls are white boards, filled with a continual flow of ideas that I get from my colleagues, alumni and my own ADD brain. But both Mark and I have the words “Kindness and Respect” prominently displayed where everyone who enters our domain can see them.
Kindness and respect are two of our most important Spartan virtues. They can be powerful tools for positive change. In their absence, distrust, hate and violence can emerge from unhappy hearts and drag us all into darkness.
Ours is a world where self interest too often supplants the greater good, where slights, real or imagined engender anger and a desire for revenge, where too many children are taught that entitlement without effort can be an expectation, where those who would control us for their own benefit use fear, uncertainty and doubt as weapons of mass destruction.
We live in a world desperately in need of more kindness and respect.
“Kindness,” wrote Mark Twain, “is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
“Constant kindness,” said the famed physician Albert Schweitzer, “can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”
With regard to respect, theologian Thomas S. Monson notes that “When we treat people merely as they are, they will remain as they are. When we treat them as if they were what they should be, they will become what they should be.”
Respect is a behavior that must first be practiced before it can expected in return. It’s hard to earn and easy to lose. It’s especially hard to model when it’s absent in others.
Admiration is not a prerequisite for respect. But respect is definitely a prerequisite for admiration. While the great Jackie Robinson was breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball, he said, “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”
Singer Taylor Swift adds, “We don’t need to share the same opinions as others, but we need to be respectful.”
Everyone we meet is fighting their own inner battles. Behind outward behavior may lie some invisible pain we know nothing about. Only through kindness and respect can we begin to heal ourselves and one another.
This does not mean that we roll over and accept disrespect or tolerate unkindness. It’s possible to demand these things in a firm, respectful way. Those who have learned this art often get what they expect even in the most uncomfortable situations.
If we want to engender an atmosphere of kindness and respect, it must begin with us.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, even those who don’t reciprocate, not because of who they are, but because of who you are.
Paraphrasing some long forgotten sage, “If we all understood that everyone has their own battles to fight, insecurities to face, loves to contend and goals to attain, the world would be a gentler place.”
Why not be that change catalyst by putting more kindness and respect into your daily interactions? Try it for a week and watch what happens.