Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Wisdom of Mutual Respect

Who is wise? One who learns from all. – The Talmud

In many disagreements – not only in the home but even at the international level – it is really not ideological differences that divide people. It is lack of respect. Most disagreements do not even require dialogue; all that is necessary is a set of flash cards. If Romeo wants to make a point with Juliet, he may have elaborate intellectual arguments for buttressing his case, but while his mouth is talking away, his hand just brings out a big card and shows it to Juliet: “I’m right.” Then Juliet flashes one of hers: “You’re wrong!” You can use the same cards for all occasions, because that is all most quarrels amount to.

What provokes people is not so much facts or opinions, but the arrogance of these flash cards. Kindness here means the generous admission – not only with the tongue but with the heart – that there is something in what you say, just as there is something in what I say. If I can listen to you with respect, it is usually only a short time before you listen with respect to me. Once this attitude is established, most differences can be made up. The problem is no longer insoluble.

--Eknath Easwaran

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