The invisibility of older people is oft lamented for inviting isolation in our society. Confounded by complex confusions such as being alone with few friends and financial insecurity, these people can be discriminated against and disrespected.
Many are also afflicted by mental ill-health only exacerbating the lack of respect accorded them. Abandoned by friends, family members, employers and former work colleagues, the disrespect can also be displayed by mental health professionals, both in the private and public system. Belittled and demeaned, they can be considered helpless and hopeless, with maintaining self-respect difficult in the circumstances.
It can be incredibly reassuring to meet a person who accepts them as they are; one who knows their situation and respects them unconditionally, especially their integrity, intelligence and individualism, despite their lack of social status and prestige.
Irrespective of their reality, the respect one evinces towards that person can invest life with a refreshing vitality sharing hours of amicable companionship, perhaps even pleasurable, consensual sex and harmonious silence together reading, watching TV or simply relaxing in peace.
In an era where respect seems sadly bereft in politics, business, the arts and sport among other things, more particularly perhaps in personal relationships as revealed on social media, it is important to acknowledge and appreciate the role respect plays in our psychological and physical well-being.
It is intrinsic to a sense of tranquillity and calm in our psyche, reinforcing that while one lives reasonably but imperfectly, life can be very meaningful and rewarding.Too often, respect seems dependent on one’s appearance, profession, the suburb lived in and all manner of material manifestations. Being a kind and sentient human being is subordinate to respect with success defined by one’s bank balance, many people impressed by superficialities rather than genuine decency.
Innately, do all humans deserve respect or is it something earned? Matthew 7:12 states it succinctly “So in everything do to others what you would have them do to you.”
Nurturing respect for others suggests first entertaining healthy self-respect and with the increasing incidence of suicide, family violence and mental health problems, developing self-respect is integral to acquiring respect for others.
To enshrine faith in respect demands discerning differences for acceptance not rejection, with an implicit moral integrity that embraces people’s shared humanity. It should inspire humility not hubris with a sense of honour towards each other.
As Leviticus 19:15 records: “You shall do no injustice in judgement…but you are to judge your neighbour fairly.”