Respect

It’s difficult not being able to talk about work in these entries.  Work is such a big part of my life but I can’t risk breaching the confidentiality clause that forms part of my employment contract.  I don’t talk about work so I should have nothing to fear but, for some reason, I feel threatened by the idea of anyone from work finding out all these things about me.

The other day I got an email from someone connected to work and, out of curiosity, I went to the site indicated in her email address.  It was a Christian site!  For some reason that just blew me away.  It made me wonder why I am so afraid of my employers or co-workers finding my site with its Christian content.

It is, of course, connected to that conviction every survivor of childhood abuse I have ever met possesses.  The certainty that anyone who finds out who I really am will cease to like or respect me.  Under most circumstances I am not afraid of that happening.  Anyone who can’t accept me as I am is not someone whose opinion I would be terribly concerned about normally but it’s not that simple when someone holds the kind of power over your welfare that an employer has.

My education attracts a lot of respect from some people.  Until you experience being respected you have no idea how much it matters!  As a child, teen, young woman and single mother I never knew how it felt to be respected.

I grew up in what is called an “authoritarian” home.  This is a home where the child must do as it is told and there is no explanation, compromise, or negotiation.  Two of my mother’s favourite sayings were “Because I said so – that’s why” and “Don’t do as I do – do as I say”.  There is no real respect in authoritarian homes.

The lack of respect for me and my thoughts, feelings and opinions that was inherent in my mother’s parenting style was reinforced by the behaviour of my abusers and I grew up with no respect for myself either.

It is part of the developmental journey for children to rebel and question what they have been taught when they reach their teenage years and I was no different.  The day came when my mother said “Because I said so” one too many times and it was not acceptable to me.  I was not able to discuss or negotiate this with her so I just ran away from home.

More disrespect in the form of additional abuse resulted from my time on the streets and I was raped several times before the police found me and sent me home.

When I became a single mother and settled down the disrespect continued.  Doctors, government workers, charity organisation workers all adopted authoritarian attitudes towards me and told me I had to do things “Because they said so”.  Even when, as a potential customer, I approached sales people for information or advice about their products and services they tended to be authoritarian.  They would, fairly quickly, tell me what to buy but they wouldn’t explain why I should buy it or, if they did, they would explain in a tone that implied I was stupid for not knowing.

I was completely unaware that I was not being respected during these years.

Then I got married and things changed.  I would approach sales people and they would ask the usual questions about what I needed it for or how much use it would have to be able to withstand and I would answer them.  As soon as I did their attitude to me would change very subtly.  They would spend more time with me, listen to what I had to say, encourage me to be more detailed about what I wanted.

Everyone I dealt with in my new role as a “Mrs” took more time to explain things to me, gave me more options, and often suggested I discuss it with my husband and let them know my decision.  Society, it became apparent to me, doesn’t order you around, try to take advantage of you, or assume you are stupid if there is a man who may get upset with them for doing it.

There was, of course, a bit of a contrast between how society was now treating me and how my husband was treating me.  He was a thousand times more respectful towards me than any man I had ever met but he was not as respectful as society was now being and it gave me food for thought.

Then I enrolled in university and began to increase my knowledge about a range of things.  Suddenly it seemed even my husband began to respect my opinions more.  In areas where my education exceeded his he would ask for my opinion or advice and he would listen and act on it!  Sadly, he continued to disrespect me in every other area of our life together so the marriage ended.

When my marriage ended I left town, resumed my maiden name and began a new life.

Suddenly sales people were telling me what I should buy, and treating me as if I was a nuisance if I wanted more information, again.  People in government agencies and various other institutions were behaving as if I was stupid and could be bluffed or bullied.  People were assuming I did not know my rights and could, therefore, be deprived of them.

Over the years that followed it was a constant battle to get people to treat me the way they had when I was a “Mrs”.  I noticed people tended to look at my wedding ring finger almost instinctively when I approached them for help, advice or service.

After I got my first job as a psychologist things improved.  When I tried to work out why I realised people tended to seek out two pieces of information from me in the first few minutes of contact – marital status and job status.  Their attention level would drop upon discovering I was single but it would improve as soon as I said I was employed.  I got the best treatment of all from people who knew I was not only employed – I had a profession.

I took to making sure I disclosed that information as soon as I detected disrespect in someone’s attitude and it helped a lot.  People usually asked me questions to see if I was telling the truth but, since I was telling the truth, they would usually be convinced and would improve their attitude.

As the years passed and I added to my education and experience I began to find that I was treated with more and more respect by people higher and higher up the social ladder.  My current employers value me quite highly if the amount of respect they show me is any indication.

As an educated person I am, however, well aware of the prejudices educated people can have.  They tend to look down on people they perceive as less educated than they are.  Many educated people are convinced that the only people who believe in God are people without the education and sophistication to know there is no God.

Those who possess both an education and faith tend to be fairly selective in how far their faith goes.  Some things, like demon possession, are considered superstition and other things, like self-disclosure, are thought of as unprofessional.

There is a better than average chance that my co-workers would lose respect for me if they have those attitudes and beliefs and they discovered I could be classified as superstitious and unprofessional.

I like being treated with respect.  If they ceased to treat me that way I would have to find another job.  I don’t want to have to do that so I don’t want to take the chance I could be forced to do it.  This means I can’t put my surname, the name of my employer or contact details on the site and I can’t talk about the site at work.

It also means I can’t say anything specific about my job on the website as it could result in some random visitor, like a co-worker, being able to work out who I am and where I work.

It seems like a bizarre twist to me.  The more I learn the more convinced I am that there really is a God and the more likely it is that I will appear superstitious and ignorant to those who don’t believe.

I have found people who don’t believe in God tend to be people who don’t want to believe in Him.  Their refusal to entertain what I see as reality makes them seem, to me, ignorant and superstitious.  We can’t both be right.

The idea that I could be wrong and there is no God just makes me laugh.  It reminds me of the answer I was given as a teenager when I asked a religious person about that possibility.  He said from where he was standing there was no way he could lose by believing in God.  He said only people who don’t believe can lose.

“If I am right”, he said, “I spend eternity enjoying heaven.  If I am wrong there will be no afterlife so I will never even know!  Only people who don’t believe in God can lose because they will have to face Him, and judgment day, if they are wrong.”

What will I say to God when He asks me why I kept this site a secret from all the people I work with I wonder.  What will they say on judgment day if God casts them into hell because they did not believe?

It makes my fear of losing their respect seem a little stupid and selfish really.

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