Respect – in and outside the CAF

Padre Zbigniew Jonczyk
Padre Zbigniew Jonczyk


Padre Zibby Jonczyk – The Courier

Chaplains Corner

Recently, I attended the ‘Respect in the CAF’ workshop that focuses on promoting respect, and creating awareness of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour.

We went over scenarios where inappropriate sexual behaviours were displayed, learn to recognize harmful behaviours, and were coached on how to respond. This promotes the ongoing discussion that can lead to change; building a respectful culture within the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

The workshop gave me the opportunity to think about respect, not only in the CAF, but in our daily lives. I find it extremely important to eradicate any harmful sexual behaviour. I also believe that respect is something to be practiced daily, regardless of our environment. Only by practicing respect in all our interactions will we be able to eliminate harmful behaviour.

Some argue that respect must be earned, and that is true to some extent. We respect people who are good role models: professionals, leaders, elders. But, for example, an older person might not necessarily become an ‘elder’ in their community. To be considered an elder, they must prove by their actions that their example is worth following.

We may feel incapable of respect when someone has not met the standards of behaviour we expect of them. This is especially true for people in certain roles, such as politicians, clergy and doctors. But it is important to understand that, regardless of our opinion of an individual, every human being deserves to be treated with respect.

Respect can be institutional, as in the military where we salute someone of higher rank and we return the salute of a junior member. Institutional respect is the reason we call a judge “Your Honour,” a bishop “Your Grace.”

But even if a person is a total stranger, we are still expected to respect them. We do not insult them or call them names. We are called on to be polite and consider their feelings. This is especially true when it comes to physical contact: respecting others means never doing anything that might make someone uncomfortable.

Respect is something we learn from our parents and teachers. We learn to respect the elderly, our parents, and teachers. We learn to respect laws. When we drive, we respect traffic rules; if we don’t, the consequences may be fatal. In our homes, we respect family traditions.

Our faith communities teach us that certain objects are sacred and to be respected. Christians respect the Bible and the cross, Muslims the Holy Koran, Jews the Torah, and the First Nations respect the Sacred Pipe and eagle feathers. Even if we do not share these faith traditions, we respect them because they are sacred, and we should respect others’ beliefs as we expect others to respect ours. From a Christian perspective, respect is connected to our human dignity as beings created in God’s image.

The way we treat others cannot be taken lightly. It impacts individuals, families, relationships and our whole society. Let’s start respecting each other in our homes, our workplaces, in the grocery store and at the traffic lights. Let’s show our children what respect means, not only in our words, but by our examples.

We can define respect and live it by simply applying to our lives the Golden Rule: “treat others as you would like to be treated.”

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