An increase in random shootings in schools, theaters, and society in general has raised the question of why. Many people are pointing to bullying and lack of acceptance as the primary reasons for individuals lashing out. In hopes of stopping the violence many initiatives have become popular. For example, Hollywood is speaking up in the Stop Bullying campaign, and Spread the Word to End the Word promotes people first language.

The common thread throughout all the campaigns is the idea of dignity and respect, but just what does that mean? Often people believe that treating others the way you want to be treated shows dignity and respect, but this is not necessarily factual. Cultural differences and experiences often leave treating others the way we want to be treated falling short. Differences are only barriers when we allow them to be. We need to ask questions and learn about others. In actuality, we should treat others the way they want to be treated. Acknowledging the differences that make us unique, and communicate acceptance of those qualities helps promote the ideas of dignity and respect. Being open to new thoughts and ideas are excellent learning opportunities and help bridge the gap and build relationships of mutual respect.

Reach out to others in small ways like being kind and courteous, even sharing a simple smile. Accept others for the differences, but be bonded by the similarities. Respect is not about one’s position or title, but should be shown to all individuals regardless of position or station in life. The idea that there is no “I” in team is true; in general, more is achieved together than separate. Everyone has dreams and aspirations for personal growth; true leaders are interested in helping all achieve, not boasting self.

Communication and the words we choose also build up or destroy. For example, People First language helps demonstrate an understanding that individuals are NOT their disability, but people with a variety of skills, talents, and abilities. Seek to find common ground and build upon the similarities. All human beings have an instinctive drive to be included and accepted. As a society we have seen the results of feeling like an outcast, it is time for change. Treat everyone with dignity and respect is more than a great catch phase. Treating everyone with dignity and respect is about building bridges by our actions, attitude, and acceptance of differences.

Randel C. Goad