Is it not true that our minds are flooded and often clogged by the following daily concerns:

  • How will I get the next thing done on my agenda?
  • How will I solve my problems?
  • How will the above bring me closer to what I desire, dream of or hope for?
  • Escape 1: What is happening in the world, the latest breaking news story, or what is new in my social media messages?
  • Escape 2: Where and when will my next ‘fix’ be to feel lighter and escape the complexity of life’s issues?

If the above is typical, what are the outcomes? Is it not that we become poorer in spirit? Are we not drifting away from things we actually value more, yet they don’t make it to the top of our lifestyles’ priority list? Such as a love-filled interaction with someone we don’t even know? A moment of honest, respectful connection with another human being?

 The need to pause

The more rushed and individualistic our lives become, the smaller the circle of people we are willing to pay attention to. Of course, we cannot be everything to all people. But I believe we need to pause more often, and ask ourselves if we are not missing the plot when people only have value if they can contribute to our goals and ideals. Can we put our irritation, annoyance, pre-occupation and aggression aside and see the beggar, taxi-driver, ‘stupid colleague’, boasting competitor, shameful celebrity, or sly politician without the labels we assign to them? Can we dare to think of them as people who, as we ourselves, appreciate understanding, long for care and love, struggle inside as much as outside, and want to be more who they truly are than what they have become?

Are we so different, so distinct, that we can put everything outside of ourselves at a distance and judge it in some abstract form from the ivory towers in our minds? I guess, that is the danger of becoming ‘intellectuals’ – we learn to use descriptors for everything and everyone and then live by and become dependent on our own abstract creations. Imagine being on an island alone with the beggar on the street you walk past everyday on your way to the office. Will you not in a short time discover how, essentially, you are no different to that person? Once you are stripped of everything you think you possess, you fear the same things, you wonder about the same things, you long and hope for the same things.

In a practical sense, are we respecting ourselves if we quickly and easily dismiss people, ignore them if they ask for attention or are waiting for a reply, conveniently forget to fulfil our promises, and talk down on them? The more disrespectful we are towards others, the more we lose self-respect, and the less self-respect we have, the less respect we tend to have for others.


In some ways, presence is the “one thing necessary”, and perhaps the hardest thing of all. Once you are “present and accounted for,” you grow from everything, even the problematic and difficult things – Richard Rohr

 If we want to practice more respect, we need to practice being more ‘present and accounted’ for. Yes, we have our goals and we live with an expectation of a better future. Yes, we plan to improve ourselves and become more significant, more successful. But can we be in the present? Can we fully appreciate ‘what is’ – not as a frustrating, unsatisfying stepping stone to glory, or irrelevant, mediocre moment in life? We will not lose focus on our purpose in life. To the contrary, we will become more focused, if we can respect the moment, the person before us, and life in its fullness. Our thinking into the future often becomes concerns or worries, or else fruitless pipedreams.

Author : Dr Gerhard van Rensburg