The word “respect” conjures up a multitude of concepts. There are two main definitions, the first being in an admiration mindset, the other being considerate to others feelings, wishes, rights and opinions. It is this latter one, specifically the consideration for another’s opinions to which I am writing about today.
I was watching the news the other day, and they were discussing the sad case of Charlie Gard, specifically the fact that a number of the staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital had received death threats due to the hospital’s stance on the case. I am not going to go into details about the case here, but I do want to say that I have the utmost res admiration for Great Ormond Street, as they saved both my life when I was a child, as well as the life of the brother.
The report got me thinking, how have we come to a point in our society where someone can receive death threats because all they have essentially done is express an opinion. OK, some may argue that the team at GOSH were more than expressing an opinion, and yes the case is more complicated than that. However, this is just one case of many that have proven a hostility and a lack of respect for differing opinions to our own. Indeed, there are two cases involving Brexit that show this. The first, of course, is the murder of Jo Cox, the other is Gina Millar and the death threats made against her- again, you could argue with the latter that it is more complicated. In essence, however, all these cases revolve around a difference of opinion. The matter of fact is that it isn’t even those who are directly involved in the debate that is responsible for this. Indeed, the parents of Charlie Gard were the first to condemn those who had threatened the lives of GOSH staff. It’s the onlookers who seem to be taking things too far.
Having differing opinions matter, and having those differing opinions heard is crucial. Take the aforementioned case of Gina Millar, though the Leave camp one the referendum last year, there is still a significant percentage of the public that felt differently. Democracy doesn’t work if opinions are belittled and ignored just because those opinions are on the losing side. It is important that the voices of those with the same opinion as Gina Miller are heard – and when I say heard, I mean properly heard – as the greater understanding and consensus can be brought to the situation.
Understanding is the key word here. As part of the anti-bullying work we do here at Strength Restored, we encourage children and young people to accept and embrace difference, and this must include respecting differences of opinion. I can laugh about it now, but there was a time when I was bullied because I happened to express the opinion that I thought the band S Club 7 must mime. Though this person is actually the only one of my bullies I ever received an apology of, the case still remains. I was bullied because my opinion differed to that of somebody else.
Children and young people look up to their parents and other adults as role models for their own behaviour. Respect must be at the heart of how we treat those sat on a different fence to us. If we don’t we are teaching our children that those who differ from us are there to be scorned – or at the most extreme, killed. – and if these mindsets embed themselves within a generation, then the battle against bullying will be increasingly harder.
Founder & CEO
Tom has going on 24 years worth of experience of working with children and young people. Having started when he himself was only 11.
He has worked in various roles, from babysitting, helping run his churches Kids Church, as well as various youth groups. Including various Friday night youth groups, a political consultation group for young people to have their say on matters concerning young people that were currently going through parliament, and the UK Youth Parliament.
For a number of years worked as a mentor for troubled young people who were at risk of falling out of the system. While volunteering he went through Level 3 training in mentorship.
While still at school Tom was trained up as a mediator and helped make a difference in the lives of his fellow students who had fallen into conflict. He was even featured in a local ITV program about the mediation training.
Tom has studied both Child Development and Child Psychology and hopes to take this line of study further in the future. In the meantime, he has gained a Level 2 Counselling certificate and will be working towards Level 3 very soon.
Tom’s real experience, however, is first hand. Having been bullied from the age of 11 through to 19. It was this the finally lead him to set up Strength Restored in order to make a difference in the lives.