After taking my annual Ethics and Compliance training, and my bi-annual Workplace Harassment training, I always revert to two lines of thought. 1) Have I done anything recently to offend or anything that was less than totally ethical? 2) If we all followed our own religious standards, especially those of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, could we someday make these things a non-issue? Could we someday not have any recent court cases to reference?
When we were growing up, my mom often said, “If we can each pass down less racism and bias to our children, maybe one day it won’t exist.” We gain a lifetime of experiences, and unfortunately, we walk away with our own biases and judgments.
Some biases we learn from our teachers and parents. If somehow, I cannot pass these on to my children – somehow teach them to be open and loving and respectful, yet protect themselves from those who would cheat or harm them, maybe my mom’s dream will come to pass.
I think it all comes down to respect. I respect you because you are a child of our Heavenly Father, who loves us. I respect you because you have a lifetime of experiences and thoughts different than my own. I respect you because no one walking the earth is going to be like you. You, as a unique individual, have something to add to the ongoing global conversation.
I’m going to show my respect by listening, patiently. And then expect you to do the same for me, as I express my opinion. I am going to respect you enough to trust that you researched and studied out your decision, and you will respect me enough to listen and consider what I am saying when I ask whether you thought of something else or considered another angle.
Okay, you can laugh now. I’m speaking of ideals and goals. Even if we try to live this way, we all say things sometimes without thinking – like when our self-editor went on a sudden unannounced vacation. In those times we should apologize. We should care enough about others to watch their reaction, realize when someone is uncomfortable, and then apologize. In these moments, I truly appreciate my friends.
Friends who stop and look at me funny, and say, “Umm, did you really mean it that way?” And I stop, think about what I just said, and when I finally get “it” say, “Oh! No, I shouldn’t have said that. It’s been a long day.” To me that is also respect, when we can honestly and politely, stop someone in their tracks and basically say, “In the 15 years we’ve known each other, I know you are better than that.”
Both my children are adopted. My son is full Hispanic and my daughter is half Polish and half Hispanic. During an industry conference my husband attended, some of his work associates went out to dinner. My son was 2 years old, and we decided to tag along. In the lobby of the restaurant while we waited for dinner, one of his associates who I knew to be a good, decent man basically cornered me and with points and nods accused me of stepping out on my husband because my son was obviously too dark skinned to be his son. I basically didn’t answer.
One, because my hearing is going bad and I was SURE I didn’t hear him correctly, and two, because if I HAD heard him correctly an accusation like that doesn’t deserve a response. In a way, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Now, I’m a smart woman. I didn’t say a word to my husband before dinner. I was already imagining the level of his reaction. As luck would have it, my loving husband is a very proud papa and started off the meal by telling the crowd our son’s adoption story before we ever ordered dinner.
You should have seen the look on my accuser’s face. Smart people regardless of their level of success, can still be really stupid sometimes. And as a result of my choices, no one needed stitches that night and my son became everyone’s son for the rest of the week.
I have been really stupid sometimes. You can call it white privilege, you can call it being a dumb blonde or naivety, but I am indeed grateful for the friends who have given me the benefit of the doubt, paused to let me think about it, or straight up called me out – and continued to do so until I became a more observant, considerate person. I still have a ways to go.
It seems that respect is most easily shared between friends. We don’t know strangers well enough to respect them. And we know family almost too well (or so we think) to show them adequate respect. How many conversations have you had about family members and their decisions when you thought they weren’t within earshot? You think its okay because you are trying to make sense of things, and you are being polite when you are around them. You call it “concern”. I don’t think it is okay. I think it unconsciously impacts our attitude toward them.
Then, we get tired or angry and we use our thoughts to make some stinging comment when we never intended to say a word. How does this build an eternal family? How does our lack of respect for someone’s decisions show our faith and trust in them? I know temple worthy, church attending, faithful families who are letting this lack of mutual respect eat them alive.
How will they ever become an eternal family? Simply because you were kids together under the same roof for a decade and a half doesn’t mean your sibling is going to make the same decisions you would. And it doesn’t mean you understand anything about their life now or all the factors that went into that decision – especially if you never ask.
As children of our Heavenly Father, isn’t it time to show a little more respect? Isn’t it time to get to know each other better, and talk TO each other instead of talking ABOUT each other? Isn’t it time to show real concern by listening to each other instead of just faking it? Heaven forbid we all act like adults and show each other a little more, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me …”. Thank you, Aretha.
Molly A. Kerr
Molly is on a life long quest to figure herself out. Born to be and educated as an aerospace engineer she is also blessed to be a wife and a mom of two in the present, previously served as a full-time missionary, is consistently called to teach the youth in her ward, is eagerly though slowly doing home improvement as money and time allow, all while gradually learning how to be herself and find peace and balance somewhere in between. Despite her attempts to make “the right” decisions in her life, she has learned to deal with some unexpected challenges over the last two decades. Total tornadoes, really. What she has discovered is that her career has taught her a lot about the Gospel and being a better mother, and the Gospel, when applied to challenges at the office, has made her a better professional. She has also learned that it is okay to be herself, and God still loves (and forgives) her for it.