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Born Equal – Part 3: The Return Of Respect

No matter who we are, how we look, what we do, what we believe in – we all have rights. Equal rights. We are all born equal, but somewhere along the line – we forget to live in equality. So, where do we begin? What do we tell our children? Why do we expect only adults to know about human rights? Isn’t it our duty to sensitize our future generation also?

These letters are an attempt by a mother to convey her thoughts around this. Do read and let us know how would you go about teaching kids that they are ‘Born Equal’?

This post is being written in association with Amnesty International India’s Human Rights Education programme.

Dear boys and girls,

“Respect should be the first thing you give.” – Anonymous

That’s true! If you ever thought you can just share and give, and not respect that person, it’s all so wrong! Respect is the basis of relationships. Love is there, but love cannot exist without respect. So, today, let’s talk about the big R – Respect.

What is respect? Respect is a feeling of admiration or due regard for someone, his or her feelings and rights. This feeling might be evoked by that person’s character, abilities or achievements. The right to be respected is a core human right. Every single person has the right to be respected by others and nothing can take that away.

Also, being respected is a basic necessity. Although we never talk about or discuss it, the truth is that we all need it. Every individual has the right to be respected irrespective of anything. And when I say this, I do not just mean in the context of respecting others. But the self too.

Respect is one of those rare things, which you need to give yourself first – to be able to receive it from others. And it’s quite proportional too.

Let me tell you, whoever you are, whatever you do – you deserve respect. And most often, people are very disappointed with the fact that they are not respected. People complain all the time, “She did not respect my decision”, “He did not treat me well”, “She did not have any respect for me”, “He forced me to do it”, and so on. But do we think as to why this happens? Why don’t others respect you or your choices?

The answer is inside you. It’s because you do not respect these factors either. The underlying theory for this is very simple. If you want others to respect you, first learn to respect yourself. If you want others to respect your choices, please have the courage to stand by them. With your head held high. If you do not want others to treat you like a doormat, then stop treating yourself like one.

Respect is that beautiful castle built upon the foundation of p’s and q’s. All it takes is some pleases, thank yous, acceptance and tolerance. Rudeness has no place in this castle despite it being palatial. A spec of rudeness can bring the castle down. So fragile is the castle.

So, how can we respect? The thumb rule is first learn to respect the self, and then others.

Let me try to list down some of the indicators of disrespect, so that we can stay away from them.

1. Expectations
2. Discrimination
3. Rude communication (loud voice and bad tone)

Where does respect reside?

– In self
– In trust/faith
– In acceptance
– In diversity
– In courtesy
– In kindness
– In integrity
– In words and actions

As you learn to deal with respect, ask yourself what respect means to you. In other words, treat others how you’d like to be treated. That will help you understand your relationship with respect. Some of us embrace respect in every aspect, while some of us ignore it and some others don’t find themselves worthy of it. I’ve once read somewhere that the world sees what we put out there. So, we need to treat ourselves with respect and grace, for the world to treat us that way.

How can we respect ourselves?

– Take care of yourself. Body and mind. Physical and emotional well being is important.
– Never say ‘Yes’ when you feel like saying ‘No’.
– Voice out your opinion when you feel like it.
– Remember, what you ‘feel’ is what you need to acknowledge. It’s not just another feeling. It is the feeling. The feeling is what makes you what you are.
– Stay true to your words.
– Do things you love.

How can we respect others?

– Take care of others. Their feelings.
– Be courteous. Say your thank you’s and pleases.
– Accept others as they are. Remember, we are all born different, but equal.
– Help others as you can.
– Be aware of your surrounding. People, especially.

Respect needs to have its cozy and comfortable space within you. This castle should be there inside you. Then respect will return.


Rashmi Balakrishnan says: I am a four year old mother. Been around for 3-plus decades. Learning new lessons and unlearning a few old ones. I try and find happiness in small things. I dream. I laugh. I cry. I hear. And I try and do. Life is all about love, laughter and light for me.