September 12, 2016

Love versus respect.

Last week, I was on a long run through downtown Davidson when a thought hit me. It was clear and simple. It was truth. Some of life's best ideals are simple.

What is love for a parent? The birth of a child. The automatic gift of knowing that you love them so much that you will lay down your life for them, bleed for them and give your all for their success. They do not earn love. It is intrinsic to our nature. This is most definitely an evolutionary ideal that is rooted in our genetic hard wiring to promote one's species.

The same event happens in reverse. Children love us from first sight. They believe in us and want our story to be true at all costs which makes it all the more painful when we fail them or worse when someone abuses their child.

Switch over to respect. It is not intrinsic. It is not given. It has to be earned. I remember the elders in my family espousing the old tradition of "respect your elders because they are older and deserve it", period. This never made sense to me. If my uncle was disrespectful in his actions, why does he deserve respect based on age? The obvious answer is that he does not deserve it.

Respect is such a different animal than love. My children know that my respect is earned and visa versa. I plan to earn their respect ever day through action. I remember watching my parents as I grew up. Actions and spoken words earned my respect. I remember my father finding money on the street and trying to return it to a rightful owner that he perceived to have lost it. That little event had a profound impact on me, even to this day. It set a standard.

I think about great Americans that have endured lives with little to respect and without the love that they would want. I think of Tony Robbins and his story that could have been a sad destructive tale. His life as he tells it was filled with anger and strife and poverty. He was deprived of much in his early years only to rise above it and find a new way to love and respect. He speaks of profound love for others and giving to fulfillment. Whether he wants it or not, he has my respect and that of millions of others.

To boil it all down, I would say this: love is the most powerful tool that we have to positively effect change in a child. They have to do nothing to earn it. It fills their wells when they are down and suffering. It is free and feels great to give away. When our children make mistakes tell them that you love them while they are educated in how to rise above and grow from a mistake. Let them know that respect is a two way street and that you are going to earn yours first and set the example. They must earn theirs from you and every other being that they share their lives with.

Encourage them to give away love freely and often. Lead by example. Another of the many reasons that being a pediatrician is the best job on the planet. I get to love your kids regardless of their actions. I get to earn their respect through my actions. I get to go home fulfilled that I have tried to teach them to live freely with health and honor.

GIve away your love while you earn your kids respect - what a blessed life you have,

Dr. M