The meaning of respect

The meaning of respect

by don Miguel Ruiz, don Jose Ruiz, and Janet Mills

Respect is a beautiful word, and it’s one of the most important symbols that we can understand. Imagine that you never heard the word before, and let’s make it up and agree on the meaning, because just like any other symbol, we need to agree with the symbol or it will not work for us. Respect, like many of the symbols, begins with ourselves, then it goes to everyone and everything around us. If we don’t respect ourselves, how can we respect anyone or anything else?

When you respect yourself, that means you accept yourself just the way you are. When you respect other people, that means you accept them just the way they are. When you respect everything in nature – the animals, the oceans, the atmosphere, the earth, that means you accept the entire creation just the way it is. When we arrive in this world, everything was created already. It was not our choice to see what had to be created or not. It was done, and we respect it. Can we do it better? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

Respect is about the complete acceptance of everything that exists just the way it is, not the way we want it to be. This is more or less one meaning of the word respect. Once you accept yourself just the way you are, you no longer have any judgments about yourself. Once you accept everybody else, you no longer have any judgments about anybody else. Then something incredible happens in your world: You find peace. You are not in conflict with yourself, and you are not in conflict with anyone else.

All the conflict that exists in humanity is because there is no respect. Every war is because we didn’t respect the other artists’ way of life. Instead of respecting their rights, we start imposing what we believe on others. There is no peace, there is war.

Respect is like a boundary. What we call our rights and respect go together. We have our rights, just as everything that exists in the universe has its rights. We live in a world that we share with billions of other beings, and respect allows all of us to live in harmony; respect makes it possible for all dreamers to live in peace. In the dream of the masters, we live in peace with everything in creation, and our life is heaven.

Heaven is a kingdom where we are the king or the queen. I have my personal kingdom and it’s heaven, but it wasn’t always heaven. It became heaven the moment I decided to respect my kingdom completely, when I no longer judged myself or anybody else, when I learned to respect everybody else’s kingdom.

The Fifth Agreement is also about respect because we respect the other artists when we learn to listen. Instead of helping them to write their story, we allow them to write their own. We have the right to express our story, but it’s no longer about imposing our story on anyone else. I will never be the one who writes your story, just as I will never allow anybody to write mine. I respect your mind, your dream, your creation. I respect whatever you believe. I respect you when I don’t try to tell you how to live your life, how to dress, how to walk, how to talk, how to do whatever you do in your kingdom.

As soon as I try to control your kingdom, I’m not respecting you anymore, and we are going to be in a war of control for your kingdom. If I try to control you, in that intent to control you, I lose my freedom. Then my freedom is to let you be whatever you are, whatever you want to be. It’s not my job to change your virtual reality. It’s my job to change myself.


Adapted from The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery. Copyright © 2010 by Miguel Angel Ruiz, M.D., Jose Luis Ruiz, and Janet Mills. Reprinted by Permission of Amber-Allen Publishing, Inc., San Rafael, California.

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