Respect is Fundamental

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Hello from back in Pennsylvania,

Yesterday was a long day (it is now Tuesday morning and I am washing bedding for the second time in two days) but those are my Monday’s. While I did get a number of things covered, there yet feels like there is more to do than I seem to have the energy or strength to do and this frustrates me beyond measure. I am hoping to be caught up with my grading before heading off to Virginia. I wanted to go there on Friday night, and if I can get some coverage on Saturday for something, I will leave then; otherwise, it will be Saturday. I promised a former student I would come to see them at some point and if I do not get that done pretty soon, traveling will be much more arduous and it is not my preference to wait until Spring. I had two students stop by today and share with me how important I had been in their tenure here at students and then I had a Communication Studies student send me a very appreciative email and ask me to present to their Communication ​Day. He wrote, “On another note, I have always had a lot of respect for you not only as a professor, but as a person. It was you who I met with before anyone else when I wanted to change my major/minor. I think of you as an extremely knowledgeable and brilliant person. . . . Despite my major being Communications and all of the professors I have been in contact with, I have considered you to be my most influential professor throughout my two years of being your student.” I am humbled by such words. Of course, not every student considers me in such a way. It is a small campus and things travel. Another student, one I know first hand to be capable in so many ways, when asked about me in the last days, by a mutual acquaintance, responded with the exclamatory remark (loud enough for others to hear), “F&$@%#, Dr. Martin.” ~ probably not the first time a one syllable word has been attached to my name, and perhaps not the last time, but this particular incident illustrates so much more. The sad part is that I heard about it from more than one person. It provided yet another piece of evidence of just how far things can move from one place to another. As I thought about it more carefully, I realized it is not a problem for me. it actually reflects more unfavorably on this particular student, especially because many of the people who heard it know the bigger story. Perhaps, I could be benevolent and say it was the altered state the person was in, yet again, that allowed for such blatant disrespect, but that would be but an excuse and give the person yet another out. Something that is typical of him or her. A person is who he or she is regardless their intake of something used or taken. That altered position merely lowers their ability to filter what they would do anyway, regardless their state.What that means, more importantly, is I am not feeling particularly benevolent in this situation.

What is sadder is I too know the bigger story and as I noted in my last blog, each person succeeds, or falls (even literally fails), on their own terms. There are two things that are fundamental to who I am. If you want to see me upset, merely be disrespectful or dishonest. In addition, if you are lacking basic honesty, you lie about foolish things or lie period, and if you are disrespectful, I will probably decide to steer clear. If those things are lacking, for whatever reason, be it a basic flaw in their character or simply a phase, my desire to work with that individual is severely lessened. While I am eternally grateful in this case for some things, what has happened as of late has done a great deal of damage to any chance that I might trust in the future. However, that is not something over which I have or need to take control. This is one of the things I am learning to do, and though it is a hard lesson for me, it is a valuable one. Letting go is not characteristic of who I am because I see it as quitting, or at least I have in the past. In this case, it is necessary; it is healthy, for both parties, but sometimes I am such a slow learner. I was warned from the outset, but I did not listen. Again, my believing I could fix it. Learning sometimes is painful. Yet, I will never close the door on a person completely, but if they shut it, they will need to re-open it. That is a difference in me at this point. Again, it has been a painful lesson, but one that is indelibly imprinted at this time.

While I must admit I have not always been as respectful as I could, as I have aged, I have come to value it more and more. Whether it is to act with dignity or some sense of decorum myself or in how I treat others, it is something that was instilled in me early. I wrote about much earlier in this blog in a post about “being a gentleman”. I remember when I was an academic advisor to the Greek system at a previous institution. One particular fraternity had a horrendous reputation because of the way they treated women. I spoke with them at a meeting and told them if I had a daughter I would not allow her anywhere near their house. They argued that it was not all of them. I noted that it would take all of them to change that reputation and that it would take years to repair the damage those few had created. Reputations are so hard to build and so easy to lose. I know this from earlier in my life and mistakes I made. Sadly it didn’t matter what my intentions were; what created the image or the reputation was what people thought. Even if their thoughts were inaccurate, the damage had been done. Much more than people realize this is something I consider all  the time. It is why I do not go into certain establishments in this town. The damage to my reputation, the respect I would lose, from my students and my colleagues is not worth the chance. It’s sad that wisdom comes so late in life.

That being said, I know I’m not perfect. In fact, I am far from it. Someone with whom I’ve recently reacquainted has told me too many times “I’m too good to be true.” I have worked to dissuade them of such an opinion. Such a belief sets me up for nothing but failure. Is actually impossible to live up to what they have created in their mind. And as I often tell people I need no help in getting in trouble. In this case, I think is because they’ve been treated so poorly that being treated with any ounce of kindness seems amazing. That too is sad. After being treated so disrespectfully, it seems that it is impossible for him or her to have respect for their own person. It takes a long time to undo such damage, but it must start from the inside. One must believe that he or she is worth respect because every person is. In fact the person who acts with disrespect toward another has no respect for himself or herself. Or perhaps more likely what they deem as respect for themselves is really foolish pride. Perhaps that is the reason for that well-known saying “pride goeth before the fall.” While I would never wish for someone to fall or be hurt, sometimes it is the only option. While deep down I guess I’ve always known this, it is hearing another person’s “story”, their narrative, and watching the continued move forward from a pretty extreme flirting with an abyss, that it has been crystallized for me. That has been one of the important learning moments for me during this past year or so.

To respect one’s self, yes, even to have a sense of pride, is fundamental to who we are and it is necessary for any hope we might have of being successful or being content and happy. Perhaps that is why I am where I am in my life. It is been a long and arduous road to get to this place. It is why am making some of the changes I am making. It is as I stare at my own sense of the abyss. It is my desire to be content, to be happy. For me, part of that is in respecting others and being respected in return. The simple statement from a student to says he respects me and he’s learned from me or that I made a difference, that is the ultimate statement of respect. I am blessed and humbled to hear such things. To each of those who I’ve mentored or made some small difference, thank you for letting me be part of your life. Whether you are in my life now or in the past, you matter. It is now 5:00 a.m.; sheets are washed, bed is made. Now I can go back to sleep for an hour or two.

To the others, thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

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