Give the gift of respect this holiday season | Guest column

By David Larson, Special to the Mirror

We’ve had a rough time the past couple years. Each of us have been affected by adversity in tangible and intangible ways. However, adversity always gives us an opportunity to learn from what went wrong so that we can make necessary corrections in our path.

This year we have an opportunity to give a much-needed gift to each other. This gift has become harder to give over the past few years because we have become accustomed to believe that the only way to accomplish things is with conflict, that effective leadership is about domination, that power is a virtue, and that reasonableness and moderation are vices. This translates into endless “us” and “them” battles about every issue we face locally, statewide, nationally, and even globally.

The “reason for the season” for many is the birth of someone who was ultimately crucified for challenging the status quo by suggesting that there was a better way to approach life. Sadly, in this story the very people he tried to help chose to free a violent criminal leaving him to die by crucifixion. In many ways, we do the same thing in our own lives especially in these days of social media; we choose to take the low road in ways that are not constructive when we could choose to take the high road encouraging others to join us on a more satisfying journey of life. We also blindly support those who feed the “us and them,” “my way or the highway,” “take it or leave it,” “pick a side or else” mentality that is destroying us from within. However, there is a better way to live our lives through a gift we can give ourselves and others.

So, what is the gift each of us should give to each other? Respect.

The gift of respect will lead us to find common ground instead of drawing lines in the sand. The gift of respect will let us see disagreement as an opportunity for growth rather than an inconvenient barrier that gets in our way. The gift of respect will get us to love the freedom of others as much or more than we love our own. The gift of respect will have us believe that doing right is much more important than being right. The gift of respect will have us measure our actions based upon what we “should” do, not simply on what we “can” do. The gift of respect will get us to see that we need leaders who will inspire us to find “our way” instead of insisting on getting “my way.” In essence, the gift of respect is the seed of dignity, love, forgiveness, grace, and even liberty itself.

I understand that some might believe that the sentiment expressed above is trite or that it is soft and weak. This is understandable in this day and age of might over right; a day and age where partisanship and power are valued over principles and responsibility.

However, the sentiment above is the foundation of our very freedom. Our freedom is based on the belief that we are capable of living side by side in harmony with people of different religions, political beliefs, nationalities, genders, races, etc. There has been a struggle for thousands of years and that same struggle will continue to exist for thousands more. This epic struggle is between the individual’s quest for individual dignity and freedom and the quest of others to use power to control and dominate individuals. Respect and disrespect have been the respective fuels used by each side of this epic struggle. In fact, tyrants rely on and promote disrespect among the people as the foundation of their power. Does divide and conquer ring a bell?

We will correct our path when we embrace our ability to govern ourselves through the gift of respect. By the way, before you look for how others are failing to give the gift of respect (the speck of sawdust in their eye) make sure you are fully giving the gift of respect yourself (remove the plank from your own eye).

There will be one of two epitaphs on my headstone — either “This is the last day that I am going to eat like this” or “At least I tried.” This column supports the latter one.

Longtime Federal Way resident David Larson is also a judge with the Federal Way Municipal Court.