All of us are leaders in some way and at some level. We all hold a leadership position of some kind. It may be as the CEO of a big corporation, the coach of a little league team, a teacher, a friend or a parent. Each of these positions has influence on the people around us.
The biggest influences on my life were my parents. They not only talked about respect and responsibility they demonstrated them. Unfortunately for me I didn’t learn from their lessons until later in life. I made mistakes that became hard lessons along the way. Like most of us, I eventually learned that I really wasn’t smarter than my parents.
My true realization of where I was and my lack of success in these areas came at a strange point. As in many interviews I was asked one day; “what is your biggest weakness?” Trying to lighten the mood in the room I answered; “I have never done marriage well.” A crazy answer for sure, but in retrospect the answer I analyzed more than any I gave that day. This answer made me realize I had missed what was really in my core.
It was first and foremost an honest answer. I had not done well with marriage. The question of why was the hard part, yet at the same time the answer was clear. I had not behaved in a way that demonstrated respect or responsibility towards either the people with whom I was married or the institution itself. I had failed to uphold the two key values my parents had taught me: always show respect for those in your life and be responsible for yourself and your actions. I needed to move back to my core values and act out the lessons I was taught. I needed to not only talk about but also act with respect and responsibility.
As in any form of learning there will be challenges and mistakes. Sometimes it means that you have to take a difficult stance and challenge the actions of others to support what you believe is right. Sometimes it means having difficult conversations with your children to pass on lessons you have learned. And sometimes it may mean writing a blog about things people don’t want to hear. So here it is: We as a country are losing or in some cases may have already lost our ability to speak and act with respect and responsibility.
I know that is a very general statement. At the same time it is true. Do we as a country talk about or act with respect towards the President? Not just the current President any President in the last 20 years. Do we act with respect towards law enforcement at times other than when they save us or our community or make the ultimate sacrifice? Do we treat umpires, referees or officials of any kind with respect? The answer is no. And please don’t tell me that since we paid to get into the sporting event or we pay law enforcement salaries, we can treat them any way we want. The fact is we have lost a level of common decency called respect.
Our loss of respect seems to have influenced our sense of responsibility. There is no question we are responsible for ourselves and we need to hold ourselves accountable for our actions. We also must understand our actions influence those around us. In my current position I have the uncomfortable task of going to people’s homes and trying to communicate with them about their unpaid bills. In my life, I have been on the other end of that visit and know it is not a conversation anyone wants to face. Some times people will answer and we work something out. Many times people will ignore me and push the responsibility off to another day. Where I most see a total loss of responsiblity, however is in the parents who send their kids to the door and instruct them to lie about them not being home. They have not only pushed off the responsiblity of paying, they have also taught their children it is ok to lie to avoid your bills.
This may be an extreme case, maybe. I see it more as a symptom to an overall problem. We have lost our sense of respect and responsiblity. We have decided that it is ok to judge others and if we don’t like them we can treat them anyway we want. We have decided it is ok to point fingers at people in every direction but at ourselves when things don’t go right. I have done it, and at times I fight doing it now. But it’s wrong.
This is just one mans opinion: If we want to get this country back to where we all want it to be, we need to rebuild the foundations of respect and responsibility. Not only by teaching and setting expectations for it in our schools,but by practicing it in our homes and our daily actions. We need to stop rationalizing disrespect or a lack of getting done what we are responsible for doing. We need to talk to and about others with respect, then act with respect around them. We need to act responsibly in all we do. We need to remember that within our hearts and minds we are all human.
Our Legacy is what we leave to our children. My personal goal is to leave them with an understanding of respect and responsibility, and I have some work to do to reach that goal. My hope is that others will join in making that their legacy because together we can do great things.