When I was a boy, my uncle, Bryant Kendall, my coach, Verlyn Giles, my high school principal, Robert Stevens, a youth worker named Shuford Davis, a campus worker named Bob Norwood, and more teachers than I can count. They listened to me and took my ideas seriously. They asked good questions. They talked straight. They gave me training and responsibility. My uncle helped me learn to mow lawns before my parents allowed me to touch anything with a motor at home. I had teachers who encouraged me to think outside the box and helped me learn to sort my thoughts and express them directly and economically. Verlyn Giles helped me learn to think and communicate under pressure and taught me to value ingenuity and skill over brute force. Bob Norwood asked questions that encouraged me choose between good and better. Shuford Davis engaged with me even though I was not part of his youth group, asking questions that caused me to address spirituality with my mind as well as my heart.
Respect isn’t empty-headed acceptance of any and all behavior. Respect grows from the acknowledgment that all of us are in process. We’ve learned everything we know so far, and we have quite a bit more to learn before we’re done.
Respect acknowledges that what’s obvious to one person may not be a bit obvious to someone else. And that’s a very good place to begin the conversation.
And isn’t that what life is all about, the ability to go around back and come up inside other people’s heads to look out at the damned fool miracle and say: oh so that’s how you see it!? Well, now, I must remember that.
—Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine, William Morrow, 2001, page xiii
Shaming is a monologue. Respect is a dialogue. The surest way for me to show respect is to ask honest questions and listen carefully until, whether or not we agree, the other person is pretty sure I truly understand.