Respect, Disrespect, & Unity

489I will not respect your opinion if it shows disrespect to other people.

Yes, we’re all free to have our opinion. Even this post, is simply my opinion. I believe the message of this post is true. You may agree with it, and you may not. Either way, I don’t want to force you into believing it because I do.

I am not going to honor opinions that are disrespectful. But, I am also not going to argue about how I think you’re wrong, because that only adds to the problem.

What are these ‘disrespectful opinions’?

These opinions breed division. They blame. They scapegoat. They belittle. They mock. They condemn. They refuse to listen or understand.

Disrespectful opinions separate people into dangerous categories: Good and bad. Innocent and guilty. Right and wrong. Solvers and problems. Holy and sinful. Perfect and abomination. Chosen and mistake.

As I withhold respect of these opinions, I need to watch myself from slipping into the same thing. I need to make sure that in rejecting fundamentalism I am not entering into more fundamentalism just with different beliefs. I need to remember to attack the disrespectful opinions, not the people who hold them. I must not return hate with hate and must not assume that I am right.

I must not return hate with hate and must not assume that I am right.

Because what I want is unity. I think a lot of us are seeking that these days. I don’t believe unity means everyone espousing the same beliefs on every possible thing. To be honest, I don’t really know what unity should look like on a national or global scale.

Unity is more than simply tolerating one another. It’s not playing nice, being passive and hoping to not step on anyone’s toes. So what does unity look like, when people are seemingly so different from one another?

I think that part of it involves being open to new ideas, to other ideas. It means listening and trying to understand before rushing to judgment. We can hear what people have to say without honoring what they are saying.

All opinions are not entitled to respect. They do not all, especially the ones that disrespect other people, automatically deserve our approval. Therefore, I think another part of unity is setting boundaries. It is setting limits. It is about calling out the evils of the world–such as white supremacy, sexism, and xenophobia–and not passing them off as simply “alternative beliefs”. Tolerating disrespect and hate validates them.

Tolerating disrespect and hate validates them.

Perhaps unity among people who seem so different is about realizing that we aren’t so different from each other. There surely are differences, which are good, but there are many things we as humans have in common. Perhaps the things we have in common are the best places to start understanding the differences.

For example, agreeing on the importance of family could be a way for someone to understand other people’s families that look different from their own. Same goes for religion, love, and more.

Also, we can unite against the things such as the ones listed above that bring much hurt to certain groups of people. It is possible to unite against these evils when we, especially those of us who deny the reality of the evils and who appear to be unaffected by the evils, realize that we’re all in this together. When we realize that because some are hurt, we all are. When we realize that the hurt of others is not something we can ignore or deny. When we realize that in order to truly remove these evils from our world, we need everyone to help.

It is possible to unite against these evils when we, especially those of us who deny the reality of the evils and who appear to be unaffected by the evils, realize that we’re all in this together.

Our world does not need more division. It does not need more people shouting, refusing to listen to and learn from the others. I know it’s unrealistic to think we can suddenly transform the world into some sing-song utopia where everyone is happy all of the time always. But surely we can do better than what we’re doing now.

I will freely admit that I have much to learn. I have both conscious and unconscious biases that I must confront and work to change. There are so many things I don’t understand. But I know this thing for sure: Opinions that disrespect people do not deserve respect.

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