Post number 3 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

In order to learn from others, and see others as “worthy” of our trust, compassion, and in some cases perhaps even our mercy, we must cultivate respect for them. Respect is a subjective quality relating to our ability to perceive worth or value in others. We act with respect by treating others kindly, and a lack of respect in treating them without due consideration and empathy.

Respect is often described as something people earn. Whilst I believe it’s true that to some extent, I can grow to respect people more than when I first meet them, I prefer to think that respect is something to be extended to all beings – all life. If I meet a person in the street, my default tone is not disrespectful, nor is it likely I would treat an animal with an absence of respect had it not done me some service prior to my making the judgement.

Respect, then, is an attitude, a demeanour, as well as an attribute we can perceive in those around us. Respect implies a certain regard for the feelings, opinions and motivations of something other than oneself, an outward-facing empathy and compassion, as well as a willingness to learn from others (perhaps that is true compassion anyway?), rather than a conceited or arrogant attitude that we ourselves must know better than others.

Perhaps this is a reflection of the Jedi way, to be respectful of all beings by default. We recognise the primacy of the wider Force and do not seek to aggrandize our own position or belief. To be one with the Force is to recognise its influence, relevance and presence in all things. How can we go through life without respect if we truly believe in the Force?

And that begs the question – can respect be truly lost, knowing what we know as Jedi? That’s a difficult one. Through compassion we can realise the failings of others, which might induce us to lose respect for them, are down to difficulties on their part. People don’t want to be small-minded, by and large. They don’t ordinarily set out to be “bad people”, and even when they do that’s usually a symptom of some underlying lack in their own life up to now. I can’t honestly say there are people who deserve no respect at all, or even less than others. Perhaps it’s those who seem to deserve it least who would benefit the most from that compassionate brand of respect I’m describing.

That said, self respect is an important facet of this picture. It’s that old paradox… before we can help others, we must help ourselves. And with respect, before we can truly respect others, I feel we must have respect for ourselves. If we live in a world where we feel we are worthless in comparison to all others, our attribution of worth in the form of respect to others is essentially meaningless. What position are we in to judge others as either worthy of respect or not, if we can’t respect ourselves?

Self respect involves learning to be “OK” with who we are, the path we’ve taken and the decisions we’ve made. Perhaps here it’s true to say that respect is earned, as for myself personally it’s a struggle to be kind to myself, to regard my own decisions and actions in the past without recourse to blame and other disrespectful modes of thought. Perhaps this is the major learning point I’ve taken from this lesson: If I am unkind to myself in regard to my former decisions and actions, it’s unlikely that I can be fully respectful of others. Where I might forgive or excuse another, I’m far more likely to criticise and “expect better” of myself.

Respect is necessary for Jedi not solely because our philosophy and belief in the Force implies a brand of universal respect for “The Other”; without respect we lose our power as mediators and agents of aid and support to those around us. Without understanding the subjective nature of respect, and the protocol of bestowing respect (ie acting respectfully, across cultural and societal bounds), we cannot fully serve our aims as Jedi. Respect is not something a Jedi should wait to earn. We should act with respect for others by default, and thereby cultivate the same universal respect from those we encounter, however unlikely that respect may seem to others.

This is the root of Jedi belief in the sanctity of all life: all life is one in the Force, and by respecting any fraction of that totality, we show disrespect to the wider whole. We must respect the balance, the unity, rather than just the aspects we find most palatable ourselves.