I have never really been a person to start a year with a single “word.” I have favorite words … too many, and I suppose that is why choosing one to embody an entire year never seemed sufficient enough. And yet … I betray myself, because recently, I realized I do have a word. But before telling you what it is, I have one story, and one confession.
A few weeks ago, I was in a cohort of teachers and was asked the question, “If you could speak any language fluently, what language would you want to know how to speak.” I listened to the others choosing beautiful languages that had always been on my list, but when it came to be my turn to answer, I couldn’t pick any. Surprising even myself, what came out of my mouth was “respect.”
I went on to explain how I wish that I could speak the language of respect fluently to all people, because I have come to learn that as “alike” or “different” as I believe myself to be from anyone else, every single person in the universe speaks and feels respect differently. As humans we have nothing if not a consistent margin for offense, mis-intended communication and accidental conflict. It’s exhausting, actually … especially for those of us who feel everything and care perhaps a little too much.
Now, onto my confession. As I was thinking about my wish to speak respect fluently, a small voice in the back of my mind asked me very, very clearly … “Is respect the language you speak to yourself?” And guess what my answer was – nope. Not often. Not even once a day sometimes. Here I try and try and bend to the point of breaking to love and honor and respect others (albeit imperfectly), and I don’t even really try to return the favor to myself.
I point out her flaws. I tell her of her shortcomings. I expect more and more out of her with less and less time, encouragement, and praise. I am not very nice to her at all. I am demanding and harsh and critical. Professionally. Personally. Physically. I tell her she is not enough. How’s that for honesty? I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but how will I ever become fluent in respect if I don’t start with telling myself the truth? So that is my intention this year. I hope to mend our relationship a little … or, a lot maybe. I want to give her a bit of grace, a bit of encouragement, and maybe even a long-deserved apology.
My word for the year is RESPECT. I’m thinking it might take me awhile to get it right, but self … I’m sure going to try.