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I have a basket of seashells I purchased from a vendor when I was on vacation nearly 20 years ago. They have varying shapes, sizes, and colors. That is why I love them. Some are similar, but none are exactly the same. If they were all the same, they would not be as beautiful. It is the variety that pleases me. Just as difference in the seashells increases the beauty and value of the collection, the uniqueness of each woman increases the value of womankind as a whole.

This month’s tenet, “We are each unique and innately worthy of respect,” resonates a wisdom that is sorely needed in society. Respect is essential to all areas of human connection. Respect within the family has mothers and fathers treating each other equally and raising children to recognize their value and that of others. Respect in the workplace has co-workers recognizing the contributions of and helping each other to innovate and improve. Respect in the political sphere opens avenues for idea exchange and compromise for the betterment of society as a whole.

Respect is also paramount in relationships between women and men. First, we must respect ourselves and our differences. These differences are complementary, and should not be the basis for rivalry. Women should not feel they need to be more “like men” to be respected. Second, we must recognize that we cannot demand respect for one sex while putting the other down. We must move away from hurtful stereotyping and work to understand the individuals with whom we interact. Third, we must respect bodily autonomy. Men must respect women and teach the rising generation to do likewise. Women must likewise respect men and teach their daughters to do so.

I recently had a conversation with a woman who insisted that it was wrong to work closely with someone who had lived a life contrary to that person’s own professed beliefs. I insisted that it was actually imperative that as members of society we learn to work with women and men with whom we may disagree and seek to find common ground. How can we ever learn something new if we only hear the same thoughts we already have?

When was the last time you had a conversation with someone whose views on a given subject were different than your own? How did you react? Were you able to treat them with respect? How can you improve in this, or help others you know do the same?