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Article:   We Fail To Teach Respect For All Life

By Janet Pfeiffer
Daily Record
Oct. 15, 2007

To all the Sharon Roth's who have asked the burning question: what kind of parents are raising children who would set a homeless person on fire? I'd like to answer that.

Many parents have relinquished their responsibilities as the primary teachers and role models of their children. Money, careers, image, power and selfishness have taken precedent over morality, ethics, values, time and sacrifice. Some adults are more concerned with pursuing their own lives than focusing on guiding and molding the attitudes, hearts and minds of their children. They have delegated the raising of their offspring to others. Parenting is a full time job with substantial overtime. Parents need to be physically and emotionally present to their children more than the minimal amount some are willing to give. This involves a huge commitment of time and energy. But, you reap what you sow.

When a parent has a strong set of moral values and is sufficiently present to their child, they are able to observe and correct any inappropriate behavior immediately. This can then be followed by instilling the proper lessons, behaviors and values that shape kind, caring, well-adjusted individuals. Even when the child is not with the parent, those values provide the guidelines for the choices they make. This does not guarantee that they will never be swayed by outside forces but it does greatly improve the odds.

However, this is not just about parents: society, big business, government leaders, Hollywood and the media all contribute.

As a society we have failed to teach and model respect for all human life - ALL human life, not just the ones that we personally approve of. We have TV shows that promote deceitful behavior, selfishness, greed, disrespect, judgment by physical appearance rather than inner beauty, indifference towards human suffering and prejudice towards those who look, think, believe and live differently than we do.

We have video games that promote violent behavior and news that consistently reports cruelty and hatred. It has been shown that frequent exposure to such events desensitizes human emotion and we begin to loose our ability to feel empathy for others. This is a dangerous trend since feelings act as our moral compass when making decisions regarding one another.

Supposedly, we are the most intelligent form of life on the planet, yet we are the only species who torture and kill one another for sport. No other life-form behaves so despicably.

We have also failed to teach our children kindness and compassion towards all of humanity. This is the key to averting any type of inhumane behavior towards one another. Just look at the word 'humankind': to be 'human' is to be 'kind'.

Every human being has a constitutional and God-given right to be treated with dignity and respect. Webster's definition of respect is 'to place value on or to find value in'. Every life has value, equal value. None is more worthy than another.

I work with the homeless. I counsel women who have fallen upon hard times. Some are well educated, many are not. Some are polite and cooperative, others, defiant and arrogant. Some are clean and neat, others in need of a shower and deodorant. It doesn't matter.

Their physical appearance, attitudes, level of education, financial situation or current living conditions does not raise or diminish their value one iota. They are just as important as my own children. Only their circumstances are different. And who's to say that at some point in our lives you or I won't find ourselves in the same situation? Will that make any of us any less valuable? Of course not. Intrinsically, we are all the same: beautiful, sacred, children of God. It is only when one refuses to acknowledge this that unspeakable acts of cruelty are perpetrated upon one another.

As adults, it is our responsibility to be the role models that our children aspire to emulate. When we are fair, they will be fair. When we are considerate of others, so will they be. When we offer one another respect, they will follow our example. When we treat others with kindness and compassion, they will mimic our behavior. Ghandi says, "I must first be the change I want to see in others."

We can make a difference in this world and begin to turn the tides on hateful behavior. Be kind to one another. Do good to all whom you encounter. Offer compassion to those who are suffering. Be the example for all to follow.

Janet Pfeiffer is a columnist for the Daily Record

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