Namaste ~ the divinity and light within me recognizes and honors the divinity and light within you.”

“I see you.”

“Politically correct” has been a phrase that has come into increased usage since the 1990s to mean “disapproving of or avoiding language or behavior that any particular group of people might feel is unkind or offensive.”  This can be as simple as using the inclusive term “firefighters” instead of “firemen,” recognizing that there are now women who are firefighters, or “flight attendants” instead of “stewardesses,” recognizing that there are now men who also have this job.  While political correctness has been taken to extremes at times, there is value in understanding that the speech, words, and language we use to communicate with each other does matter greatly.

Human beings are graced above all other creatures to have developed the ability to communicate with each other in this unique way. Our language ability has allowed us to express our thoughts and emotions by creating beautiful poetry, books, and songs that we share with one another.  Our language ability also, unfortunately, allows us to speak hatefully, violently, and judgmentally  toward each other and toward ourselves.

As human beings, by the time we reach adulthood, we have all developed our own entrenched beliefs about ourselves, our social groups, and our ways of looking at life and at the world.  These beliefs have been shaped by our particular family, the ethnic and socioeconomic situation in which we grew up, our education, and our particular cultural attitudes and norms.  We all have particular ways in which we look at the world, and many of these ways are so habitual that we are not even aware that we may have a very narrow viewpoint on any one issue.  Even so, we are very attached to our own viewpoints, and are often unwilling, or unable, to see beyond our own ways of thinking.

At the very heart of “political correctness,” I believe, is a desire for us to try to respect all people in our speech, regardless of gender, race, religion, abilities or disabilities, beliefs, etc., and hopefully, have that respect transcend to how we think about and act toward all human beings.

Webster’s Dictionary defines respect as “to feel or show honor or esteem, consideration or regard” for another. The derivation is Latin, RE- back, SPECT– look at, or to look at again or to look at a second time, to see again. This is a beautiful way to think about respect, because so often, it is our first impression of someone that triggers a knee-jerk response. Most of the time, we do not have the least insight into why we think, feel, or respond the way we do. Unless we become aware of our responses, and why we respond the ways we do, we cannot change the biased, judgmental, and categorizing views we have of people and situations.

I love the greeting, “Namaste,” although I do sometimes feel it is sometimes overused without recognizing the beautiful intent that it conveys.  Namaste means, “I recognize that your very essence is Divine, and that the Divine dwells in you as much as I believe the Divine dwells in me.” Namaste means, “I see you. I really SEE you.”  I see YOU, not my idea of who you are, or what you are, or what I think you believe or should believeI SEE YOU, as a beautiful, precious, valuable human being.  Our thoughts, speech, and actions would automatically become r-e-s-p-e-c-t-ful if we practice SEEing each other again in this fully aware way.

Exercise: Sometime soon, when you are with other people in a public place, perhaps standing in line at the grocery store check-out, or attending a school event for your children, or at church, begin to become aware of, and notice, the thoughts going through your mind.  Notice the string of randomness in your thoughts, and how thought tend to jump from one subject to another. Then begin to pay particular attention to the thoughts about the people around you. Notice the labels that you place on them, your judgment or critical thoughts about their looks, dress, behavior, economic status, etc.  Just become aware of these unbidden thoughts without judging yourself negatively. Begin to ask yourself, “Where do these ideas, attitudes, labels, and judgments come from?” When we begin to pay attention, we are usually floored by how much we do this!  Once we recognize this, we can re-spect= look again, and begin to break our habitual labeling and judging by lovingly saying “Namaste,” to them in our hearts instead.