This week we had to say goodbye to Aretha Franklin, who helped many of us find a way to better understand our feelings in song. Understanding feelings and finding the words to express them is no small thing. Her words and disarming confidence assured us that whatever our feelings were, we had a right to feel them.
One set of problem words is “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Sometimes we deliver those words to ourselves. Feelings are not right or wrong; they just are. Acknowledging them can be the first step in examining the thoughts that are behind the feeling, and that is where the work lies in building a strong foundation for emotional wellness and appropriate behaviors.
Her song, R-E-S=P-E-C-T, delivers the feeling of the need to be taken seriously. The thought underlying this feeling is that every human being deserves to be treated with dignity, just because they are human. Listening to this feeling and this thought helps us to set boundaries where they are needed to affirm our own dignity and the dignity of others.
Too often in relationships, familiarity causes people to be careless with giving respect. Incivility causes not only a breakdown in the relationship but a diminishment of the dignity of both parties. A beginning exercise in saving a failing relationship is the restoration of R-E-S-P-E-C-T, which looks a lot like common politeness. Those who knew Aretha identified that she not only sang about respect, but demonstrated giving and demanding it for herself and all others.