Editor's note: Respect takes on different nuances of meaning in each of the array of circumstances where it finds expression. It is deserved because of our fundamental dignity as human beings, yet it is often earned. It helps shift yet also stabilizes society. It is essential to offer to others in trusting relationships, yet self-respect is the best capital we have in life. These quotes, taken together, help give the full flavor of this essential quality.
An Aspect of Right Attitude towards Others
"The essence of all spiritual life is your emotion, your attitude toward others. Once you have pure and sincere motivation, all the rest follows. You can develop the right attitude toward others on the basis of kindness, love, respect, and on the clear realization of the oneness of all human beings."
— His Holiness the Dalai Lama in The Path to Tranquility
An Attitude that Arises in the Heart
"When one sincerely gives respect to anyone, not for show but from the feeling of one's heart, nothing else can give it."
— Hazrat Inayat Khan in The Wisdom of Sufism
An Authentic Response to the Image of God in Us
"Human dignity is no other than the respect due to the image of God in us."
— Mercy Amba Oduyoye in Joan Chittister's Called to Question
The Basis for Empathy
"Knowing how to respect another person's pain and his moment means being able to discern when it is time to calm him, comfort him, counsel him, or proffer solidarity. This is what a Yiddish saying calls 'knowing what's happening in the other guy's belly.'"
— Nilton Bonder's The Kabbalah of Envy
The Best Capital We Have in Life
"The worst thing that can happen to a person is to lose his or her self-respect. It is the best capital we have in life. Self-respect is not arrogance, self-importance, bravado, or over-confidence. It is not surrendering in the face of oppression or authority. It is upholding our stance and principles, and maintaining our character and morality."
— Master Hsing Yun in Tending Life's Garden
Closely Tied to Our Convictions
"Stands must be taken. If I am to respect myself I have to search myself for what I believe is right and take a stand on what I find. Otherwise, I have not gathered together what I have been given; I have not embraced what I have learned; I lack my own conviction."
— Hugh Prather
A Commandment from God
"It is that the one God, creator of diversity, commands us to honour his creation by respecting diversity. God, the maker of all, has set his image on the person as such, prior to and independently of our varied cultures and civilizations, thus conferring on human life a dignity and sanctity that transcends our differences. That is the burden of his covenant with Noah and thus with all mankind. It is the moral basis of our shared humanity, and thus ultimately of universal human rights. That is why the later covenant with Abraham and his children does not exclude other paths to salvation. The righteous of all nations — those who honor God and his covenant with mankind — have a share in the world to come. Until the great faiths not merely tolerate but find positive value in the diversity of the human condition, we will have wars, and their cost in human lives will continue to rise."
— Jonathan Sacks in The Dignity of Difference
Earned through Dependability
"Respect is often earned through one's dependability. If others know that a person can be relied upon to speak honestly, to act in times of crisis, to contribute with generosity, to use wisdom in making decisions, and to be faithful to family and friends — that person has earned respect.
— Jamie Sams in Earth Medicine
An Emphasis of Faith
"I want to encourage delight in the word [faith], to help reclaim faith as fresh, vibrant, intelligent, and liberating. This is a faith that emphasizes a foundation of love and respect for ourselves. It is a faith that uncovers our connection to others, rather than designating anyone as separate and apart….
"Faith is not a commodity we either have or don't have — it is an inner quality that unfolds as we learn to trust our own deepest experience."
— Sharon Salzberg in Faith
Essential to Trusting Relationships
"Never spend time with people who don't respect you."
— Maori Proverb in Angeles Arrien's The Four-Fold way
"Certainly people need to be appreciated and respected for what they are in all the aspects of human nature. But to respect and trust each other as companions on the way, companions in the search [for self] offers to our modern life a wholly different meaning of trust and respect…."
"Throughout our lives our sense of each other will continually be dual: we respect each other, while at the same time continually monitoring the level of trust we can place in each other as we actually are. I respect your divinity; I distrust your demons. Just as, if I am struggling for my inner truth, I respect my own divinity while trying to be sincere with myself about my own demons."
— Jacob Needleman in A Little Book of Love
The First Mark of an Educated Person
"Respect for the fragility and importance of the individual is still the first mark of the educated person."
— Norman Cousins in Frederic Brussat's Twitter Collection
A Healthy Feeling to Develop
"Self-respect is a normal and healthy feeling to develop in the course of practice. Indeed, you should experience it. Self-respect is a sign that your faith in yourself is growing stronger. As a result of practice, you gradually come to see things that others may miss, and from this recognition springs compassion. You become more tolerant of other people's shortcomings because you see them in yourself."
— Master Sheng-yen in Complete Enlightenment
The Highest Expression of Love
"The highest expression of love is respect. Respect is not only due to one's superior or elder, but even to a child. Only, one should know to what extent it should be given and in what form it should be expressed. In loving one's mate, one's friend or relation, one's parents, one's teacher, one's priest, the best expression of love that can be shown is a sincere respectful attitude. No love-offering can be more precious than a word, an act of respect."
— Hazrat Inayat Khan in The Wisdom of Sufism
An Imperative of Intimacy
"Women value human closeness. Though drawing near puts one at some risk, to be sure, it is in the touching of one with another that we become most fully ourselves. Intimacy — between friends, lovers, within the family — at its best includes a radical respect for the other and the willingness to be vulnerable."
— Marilyn Sewell in Cries of the Spirit
An Invitation Born of Compassion
"We can flourish on our planet only if we learn to listen to the call of compassion, inviting us to seek resources for respect and care within our heritages; to the call of honesty, inviting us to acknowledge limitations within our traditions and to step forward by seeking new ways of thinking; to the call of frugality, beckoning us to live more simply so that others can simply live; and to the call of the earth, inviting us to accept our kinship with other creatures, for their sake and our own."
— Jay McDaniel in Gandhi's Hope
A Matter of Life and Death
"Listening to each other and respecting each other aren't just nice ideas. They are matters of life and death."
— Alan Jones in Reimagining Christianity
A Natural Result of Transformation
"Enlightened society happens one by one. . . . You shift. I shift. My neighbor shifts. Someone in Angola shifts. A person in Russia shifts. Someone in the Philippines shifts. A gang member shifts. A Parliament member shifts. A mother shifts. A child shifts. A news commentator shifts. A prisoner shifts. A warden shifts. A homeless person shifts. Once you realize this, peacefulness and a deep respect for human beings are natural. The help that's needed is to help each person shift, and as they shift, they help the rest of us shift, too. There is no real recipe, except working with what the world presents from the point of view of basic goodness, compassion, and courage. The key is never to make a separation between your practice and your everyday life."
— Cynthia Kneen in Awake Mind, Open Heart
Necessary for Peace
"There will be no lasting peace on earth unless we learn not merely to tolerate but even to respect other faiths than our own."
— Mahatma Gandhi in Michael Henderson's No Enemy to Conquer
"True peace comes with the discovery that we can respect the seasons of life with a spacious and undefended heart. In it we learn to trust, to rest in the truth of the way things are, to willingly accept the measure of joy and sorrow we are given."
— Jack Kornfield in The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace
A Principle with Three Aspects
"[In Minyan practice] there are three aspects of [the principle of respect]: respect for your body, respect for nature, and respect for animals. With regard to the body, you are obligated to maintain proper hygiene, diet, and exercise; to strive toward eating a vegetarian diet; and to consume nothing that is harmful to you."
— Rami Shapiro in Minyan
A Sign of Pervasive Worth
"I cannot look in any direction without seeing creations of God. Therefore, nothing is insignificant, and everything worthy of respect and care. Nothing is second-class. What God has made is of value."
— Paula D'Arcy in Gift of the Red Bird
A Skill Anyone Can Learn
"Anyone can learn to be more mindful and more respectful of the unity of life. Even the knowledge that such an approach is possible can be valuable. In the end, the need to fight back, as natural as it seems to be, itself springs from separation and fear.
"When all life is truly seen as of one root, interconnected and sacred, then even in a violent culture, new responses will arise and at last the old cycle of violence will end."
— Philip Kapleau in Awakening to Zen by Polly Young-Eisendrath, editor, Rafe Martin, editor
A Way to Mark Others as Equals
"Civility is the sum of the many sacrifices we are called to make for the sake of living together. When we pretend that we travel alone, we can also pretend that these sacrifices are unnecessary…. We should make sacrifices for others not simply because doing so makes social life easier (although it does), but as a signal of respect for our fellow citizens, marking them as equals, both before the law and before God."
— Stephen Carter in Civility