“It’s always been a mystery to me how people can respect themselves when they humiliate other humans” – Mahatma Gandhi

Aretha Franklin belts it out, as only she in her brilliance can: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find out what it means to me” as she pleads with her partner to treat her with just a little respect (or else he might come home one day and find her gone). People need to feel respected or else they feel dehumanized. The truth is the human response to disrespect can result in relational breakdown, racism, rioting, violence and a number of other social woes.

There is no greater compliment that I could receive than for someone to tell me that they respect me. When someone says “I really respect what you do” or “I have great respect for you as a person” it has the potential to completely make my day. However, the opposite is true if someone tells me they have no respect for me (or even worse, if I hear about it secondhand via a rumour), or I feel disrespected somehow. Disrespect hurts me to the core and has potential to make me so angry that I could act out in a way that isn’t in character with who I am or what I believe.

The Salvation Army understands how integral this concept is to our work, so much that it has named ‘respect’ as one of its core values. Respect is a ‘non-negotiable’ for how we do ministry. Plus, treating people the way you’d have them treat you, a.k.a. The Golden Rule, is biblical. In fact, this passage makes it clear that it sums up the whole Christian life.

“Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.” – Matthew 7:12, The Message

In a perfect world, respect goes two-ways. We offer and hope to receive respect in return. But what happens if respect is offered but not received? Should that change how we treat someone? Absolutely not! That’s what leads to a little thing we call war. Offering respect to everyone, even if they don’t reciprocate or appear to ‘deserve’ it, is the true mark of an organization or a person in search of real and lasting peace. Yes, we believe that respect leads to solutions to some very big problems. But As Gandhi in his wisdom pointed out, if we don’t respect others, we likely lack it for ourselves on some level. So the starting point here, as in most cases, is with us.

As the narrator in the above video says, “Respect isn’t a destination; it’s a starting point. It isn’t earned; it’s given freely. It isn’t exclusive; it’s inclusive.” Why? Because The Salvation Army believes that each and every person on the planet was created in the image of God and deserves it…no matter what.”

So while we focus on this core value of ‘respect’ during the month of May, as we encounter co-workers, supervisors, shelter residents, government officials, family members, funders and volunteers, let’s do what we can to remember how absolutely vital it is to treat one another with respect; it could change the world.

Keep on being ‘The Hand of God in the Heart of the City’.


Dion Oxford, Director of Mission Integration

Respect from Salvation Army Ethics Centre on Vimeo.

Prayer for Respect of Self and Others
You overcame earthly temptations, maintaining self-respect to the end.
You are my code of conduct; I strive to comply with your ways.
Teach me all I need to know about respect, its mastery being my long-term objective.
May this include learning to listen and allowing others to share their opinions.
May my respect toward other humans truly reflect your love towards all!

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