Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Lost Art of Respect - Lessons from the Samurai - SYNCRO-BLOG

SYNCRO-BLOG - to see many more perspectives & viewpoints on this topic, scroll to the bottom of this post for some more awesome writers' BLOG links.  Comment to share some of YOUR personal experience with "Random Acts of Kindness/Respect" or ideas about how to revitalize common courtesy...


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"Chivalry is DEAD..."


Another related statement with slightly different context:


"Common courtesy is uncommon."


You've heard these, you've read these and maybe you've even experienced these concepts over the last 1-2 decades.  While there are many theories on it, I'm not so interested in exploring what happened or even why it happened, but rather, "what can we collectively do about it (that would make a tangible difference) now?"


As is often a theme with some of my life-philosophy, I borrow (see: steal/plagiarize) from ancient Japanese wisdom.  More specifically, I take a few pages from the moral/ethical Code of the Samurai, otherwise known as "the Bushido".


The basic tenants of the Bushido Code are as follows: 

Rectitude - integrity
Courage - bravery, not to be confused with fearlessness
Benevolence - kindness
Politeness - good manners
Veracity - sincerity
Honor - to hold in high respect
Loyalty - faithfulness to commitments
Self-Control - restraint, often of one's feelings


Books have been written to explore the whole lifestyle and code of the samurai, most notably Bushido: The Soul of Japan by Inazo Nitobe, so if you want to explore the Bushido more, you have some resources. Even one of my favorite films: the Last Samurai (sorry, Chan-Chan, had to include a Tom Cruise reference there) deals with the modernization of society and the dying of old ideals/standards.


Singing, but NOT about respect with strangers.
I'm going to look at our daily person-to-person interactions for a moment, and focus on the points of benevolence, politeness, honor and touch on courage.  The lost art of respect.  Now I'm not talking R-E-S-P-E-C-T as Aretha sang about.  In case you've been singing that song in karaoke (ladies) totally misinterpreting it's meaning, Ms. Franklin was talking about getting laid when her man gets home ("takin' care... TCB" = takin' care of business and I hope I don't need to explain her "sock it to me" reference). But I digress...

I witnessed this last year: I walked out of my favorite coffee shop (Peet's Coffee in Brentwood, yeah, OJ's Brentwood) and there was a car broken down at a stop light.  The driver door was open, hazard-lights on, driver nowhere to be seen.  The signal turned a couple times, as I surveyed both sides of the street looking for some poor individual on their cell phone calling AAA for a tow.  One or two cars got stuck behind this vehicle as others wouldn't let them out/around because they (themselves) were in a hurry to get to where they were going on a busy morning commute.  Within about 5-minutes, a lady walked out of my beloved Peet's, coffee in hand, crossed the street, stepped into the "broken down vehicle" turned the hazards off, shut her door and drove onward to her destination.  Consider me floored.  My levels of expanding shock to the conversely elevated levels of entitlement and indifference.  I wracked my brain for what could have possibly motivated this behavior: "CRAP, NO PARKING, I'm LATE again, I NEED my coffee, ahhhh F#$K it, I'll just throw it in park here, it's only gonna take 90-seconds..."


This type of behavior has become more and more prevalent.  People holding a cell phone conversation while apologizing to the person they are on the phone with as they order coffee at this same spot (it would be easy for you to say, "typical LA problem" but I challenge you to look for examples close to home).  Everybody is super-busy, in a hurry, stressed out and reduced to the lowest level state of being (a coma or 'brain death' where no conscious thought is present) and all one can do is deal with their own, individual, selfish needs/wants in the present moment with no care or concern for how it shall impact so-called strangers.  The domino effect on the day/experience of others is profound.



Sometimes 'Doing the Right Thing' = Respect
Turn this around for a moment and consider the random act of kindness (a form of ultimate respect towards someone you don't know): you are having a pretty horrific day. Who knows, flat tire, you lost a big sale/account at work, got in a fight with your closest loved one and are looking at the world like it's raining adversity on you maliciously and intentionally.  "WHY ME!?" you cry to yourself.  Then, someone in the grocery store lets you in front of them in line, or sees you coming to a door with your hands full and they hold the door open for you.  Something little, so simple, and it can begin to turn a day around (or at least change your doom-and-gloom perspective).  Practicing random acts of kindness: paying it forward, can pay big dividends.  Think of when you've done something like this (I know you ALL have, or you wouldn't have been attracted to THIS post/topic), it made you feel really good.  Maybe the person smiled and gave you the most sincere "thank you" you had heard in a while?  But that wasn't the point.  You eased someone else's journey.  You paid them honor and respect.

There are quite a few levels and layers to this game I am about to invite you to play.  Different challenges with increasing levels of difficulty.  The game is to bring an increased level of respect to your interactions with other human beings, both near-and-dear to you and sometimes even more importantly, to random strangers.  If I haven't lost you yet, read on...


These levels are set in increasing difficulty scales (and are from my own dynamically subjective opinion)...


FIRST LEVEL - treat your significant other (see also: boyfriend/girlfriend) with kindness, generosity and respect (when things are happy/good)

SECOND LEVEL - extend this treatment to your close friends and family

THIRD LEVEL - add co-workers and people you see most days of the week (yeah, the coffee barista who makes your same latte each and every day)

FOURTH LEVEL - add random anonymous strangers

FIFTH LEVEL - add random anonymous strangers who are publicly disrespecting others (the self-important dude having a cell phone conversation in line in front of you)
WWMGD? - Okay, maybe a poor example...
SIXTH LEVEL - add the random anonymous stranger who is being rude to you, quite directly

SEVENTH LEVELadd your significant other when they are having a bad day and are taking it out on you and estranged family members you've had a falling out with

EIGHTH LEVEL - RESPECT YOURSELF: who you are, who you aren't, and who you intend to be

NINTH LEVEL - respect the disrespectful Prius owner (you might have to live in Santa Monica to get this joke)

I take pride in being really good at levels 1-4.  But when others get nasty with me or treat other's poorly, this is when I gotta bring this practice/game into full swing.  There are a few different strategies to try here...



Most people don't want to intrude when someone is on their cell phone and let the person steamroll their interactions through the coffee shop.  But if there were a CULTURE for respect (which has to start somewhere, with someone taking a stand), you could tap them on the shoulder and say, "hey, it would be pretty awesome if you continued that conversation after your order OR stepped outside until you're finished" and smiled (genuinely).  Sometimes the person will do/say something hideous back, but in 90% of these interactions, you'll get the peanut gallery (others in line with you) that will chime in with an "amen" or "yeah, please sir" responses.  This is where COURAGE factors into practicing respect.  Taking a stand for propriety is more than just refraining from being a part of the problem, it is being an active participant in the solution.


Alternatively, when someone swoops in on a parking space you were waiting for, cuts you off in traffic, sneaks in front of you in the line at a deli, these are all opportunities to be polite (and let them know YOU KNOW, and it's okay).  I know, your "but that a-hole took advantage of me" voice is going crazy right now.  This challenge is one of the hardest things in the world to practice.  But it's worth it.  Maybe NOT for the stranger you feel took advantage of the situation, but the people around you who didn't have to experience you flying off the handle with road-rage over having to look for a parking space for 5-more minutes.  Respect, when practiced fully, brings more calm and peace to you and you'll be able to perpetuate and pass on that loving, kind energy to others more freely.

Take the high road.

Don't take my word for it.  I invite you to experience it for yourself.  Then come back to me and say I'm crazy, it didn't work.  I dare you...


"I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me... all I ask is that you respect me as a human being."
-Jackie Robinson





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Some of my other favorite bloggers' posts on this same topic:

Katie DeSplinter Muses on Social Media vs Social Respectability

Jennifer Benna Ups Her Level of Motherly Self-Respect
Olga Varlamova-King Values Other's Points of View and Respects Herself
Liza Howard Respects Her Commitment to the Moment


BONUS! - One more (randomly discovered) piece on Chivalry and Good Manners by Lauren Bravo from the Huffington Post (UK).




Comment below and let me know your thoughts on this topic!
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