Saint Mary’s College, First Year Student Welcome Prayer Service, August 26, 2021
The Lasallian Core Principle ‘Respect for All Persons’ is a lens by which to understand the challenges we face in our world today, the challenges that emerge and reside in our relationships with others. We are told that we must be kind to everyone in order to live in harmony, that we must placate conflict immediately or else we are lost. So for the sake of avoiding that battle, we tell each other that we must be unconditionally civil with everyone, by the logic that if everyone were polite enough to everyone else, we’d achieve peace, and there would be no battles to fight.
This may seem like a solution. Politeness, however, can fall short–or rather we fall short–when we hide behind politeness and cease to understand one another truly. Often our own discomfort with creating conflict leads us to overlook the whole person, overlook their points of view, and sometimes demand that we reject our own to keep things as they are.
Families Praying Together
Respect is different. Respect is not merely kindness in this regard. Respect understands that the way things are is not the end of the story. ‘Respect for All Persons’ is an active choice that lives and breathes within us. It was breathed into us by the Creator, God’s self. Respecting all persons is dedication to the totality of another: the whole person with layers of identity, racial identity, sexual identity, socioeconomic status, age, gender, education, religion and more.
We are charged to respect all persons because if we continually opt for kindness without understanding as a solution to the very real and very serious realities that people in our world face, it would be the erasure of the true hardship that affects and shapes the people that we are, and the people that we seek to know. We owe it to one another to respect and dignify each human life.
The Blessing of Students
While we seek to understand how our preconceived judgements and learned behaviors can hurt other people and lead to conflict, we should bear in mind that ‘Respect for All Persons’ is not the complete absolving of those judgements. Just because we choose respect does not mean we automatically and perfectly unlearn the harmful ways we stereotype and box people in, limit them to whatever it is we think they should be.
Respect for all persons triumphs over these judgements by being practiced and nurtured. We can overcome a great barrier that we have mistakenly taken part in building. If we truly wish to meet one another as God so intended, our faith in God’s people must push us to act with respect.
Justice is faith in God’s people, and when we choose to respect God’s people, we are that much closer to that which we already know: human life is sacred, you and I are sacred in ways that we may never fully understand. May we find a way to live so that we are brought to a deeper understanding of one another as complex individuals, who seek truth, who seek love, who seek visibility, who seek peace.
Photo credits: Haley Nelson