There are many things you can do every day to respect life from conception until natural death—pray, participate in a pro-life organization, volunteer at pregnancy centers, love your family exceptionally, visit hospices, vote in good conscience.
I highly encourage your participation in spreading the respect of life from conception until natural death, but whether or not you can spiritually adopt a baby for nine months in prayer, spend 40 days praying and counseling outside an abortion center, or adopt a grandparent into your weekly brunch schedule, these are things everyone can and should absolutely STOP doing…
1. Wishing someone was never born. Just don’t say it or think it or believe that lie. It’s childish, and Jesus wants us to be child-like, not childish. A priest once made a very important distinction about this: to be childish, is to be uncontrolled, emotional, and immature but to be child-like is to be innocent, loving, and trusting of God. Charitably correct those who say this because they say it out of extreme emotion, especially in youth, and remember not to think it of yourself either. It is a gift to be born even when it doesn’t feel like such a blessing.
2. Treat others who might not be like you as if they are lesser. Like Mr. Fred Rogers reminded us, we are all special. This doesn’t mean that we are entitled to treat others like they are stupid, unworthy, or shameful if they aren’t us. Everyone being unique means that someone might make completely different choices than you, but if those choices aren’t morally wrong, then you really don’t need to say anything. They like the color yellow, which you can’t stand? Get over it. Their life is not determined by whether or not they live or think exactly like you. Because their eternal life depends on whether they live like God intends us to, make sure you exercise your spiritual works of mercy and encourage them to follow God and live how we are meant to live. That is not just naturally pro-life, that’s supernaturally pro-life.
3. Forget your manners. Pretty please use your manners! Maybe it means saying “sir” and “ma’am” or “please” and “thank you” or “excuse me” or, if you are in the Midwest, “ope, I’m just going to slide right past you—sorry ‘bout that. My bad.” However you express your manners, they matter. Not being polite is to not recognizing a person’s individual dignity. A simple sign of gratitude for the librarian who checks out your books might seem like nothing but routine, but forgetting your manners and just grumbly walking away definitely makes a bad, negative impact. Try to move on when people are rude to you, but don’t let yourself disrespect others.
4. Judge others’ worth by arbitrary issues. In our first-world country, it is easy to get caught up in arguments over politics and religion and certain lifestyle choices. These are important matters and should be discussed! However, why do people argue about their favorite Veggie Tales character, the quality of tea someone else drinks, or whether or not another person’s tires are fully inflated? Are we really that desperate to be better than others that we need to pick a fight over matters that don’t matter? So what your son doesn’t want to fix the tire pressure issue that you’ve pointed out–repeatedly. If you’re concerned about your grandchildren’s safety, offer to pump it yourself rather than argue, or just withhold the “I told you so” attitude when he needs your roadside assistance. Your relationship—your lives—are more than these petty fights, and if you find yourself constantly stuck in these arguments, take a look in the mirror and figure out what the underlying issue is with you. Without this bickering, you’ll find yourself a whole lot more understanding of others and consequently respectful of others’ existence. You’ll find that people who don’t fight over petty things make you feel important, respected, and are like magnets for more goodness.
5. Dismiss someone’s ideas simply because they are different than yours. Ever had a work meeting where a coworker presents a completely, utterly ridiculous plan for financial success and everyone scoffs. Sure, the idea was bonkers, but the value of that person is not scoff-able. We’ve all felt like our worth has depended on approval—grades, sports, ability to go through labor without any drugs. Well, let me tell you I’ve earned a D in Algebra, didn’t even try for varsity volleyball so that others didn’t have the chance to tell me I wasn’t good enough, and I took that epidural with good reason. Yet, I am still a wholly worthy dignified human person. You don’t need to make standards for others or yourself in order to be worthy of life, so stop letting yourself do it, even subconsciously. We are all made to follow God’s design and commandments, but He never made us to think exactly the same way or have the same talents. Then, we’d just be clones or robots, but we’re not—we’re human.
6. Confuse or ignore “stranger danger.” There was a creepy van in our parking lot, and I went on full stranger-danger mode for a good two days. And when some random guy looked like he was waiting for me in the parking lot and was about to approach me, I re-buckled my daughter’s car seat and sat back in my locked car until he very considerately sat back in his as if to say “I get it. You don’t know me, but I’m not going to hurt you.” I realized that he was actually the new neighbor—not a creep trying to stalk me and steal my kid. Now, we smile and wave freely. It’s not good to put yourself at risk just to be “nice” to people you don’t know. Making sure things are safe might mean you accidentally insult someone, but that’s different than purposefully treating strangers like criminals. Let’s not confuse “stranger danger” for justifying treating everyone you don’t personally know like a serial killer or like a best friend you can just tell your life to. Be kind and smart so that everyone is treated with respect, including yourself and new people you’ve never met.
7. Complain. The worst thing is when we complain. Like, why do people do that? It’s so obnoxious and boring and rude and… yeah, like what I just wrote right there? Doesn’t it bring you down just to read it? There’s a place for talking things out over the phone with your mother because you’re utterly flabbergasted and in need of guidance, but complaining is ungrateful and a waste of breath. Instead of complaining, change something. Make different friends. Say something assertive. Apply elsewhere for work. Have your spouse take out the garbage and you’ll put away dishes rather than complain about the type of bag used, the smell, the awkward neighbor on the porch at night watching you and waiting to wave and comment about the size of the trash load. People are weird, okay? But, weird doesn’t necessitate criminal or unworthy of respect. Bite your tongue (metaphorically), and say it differently: “I would rather put the dishes away. The garbage bothers me.” That is much different than “I can’t stand the black trash bags you have to tie. Why did you get those instead of scented white string ones? And blah, blah, blah… weirdo Nosey Nancy will try to talk to me again.”
8. Gossip. Speaking of Nosey Nancy, she might make for some good stories to swap with your buddy who lives next to some person who identified as “Nachos” and disappears regularly for unknown reasons but knock off the gossip about other people. There are the facts: Nancy always asks about ten questions a conversation and never leaves her porch and likely called the cops on your kid’s bike placement, or “Nachos” might have tried to cut his own tree down in the front yard and consequently you had to pack up all the kids and drive him to the ER at four am. Then there’s gossip: She’s so weird, and I’m convinced she killed her husband and buried him the backyard, or “Nachos” has some neurological disorder from his days in the FBI jail and bakes illegal drugs in his attic. You don’t know that because if you did, you better be calling the cops on Nancy and“Nachos.” Even if they are full-on criminals, they are still human and need—for their own good—separated from society and given some counsel. Otherwise, leave the poor people alone and respect them even in private! You’re juicy gossip at times, too.
9. Put yourself down. It’s really difficult to treat others lovingly if you don’t love yourself. Jesus clearly asks us to love God above all and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. So, don’t love yourself like you’re God—that’s the peak of pride. But, you must love yourself. To love yourself means being grateful for God’s gift of life to you. Loving yourself despite flaws and failures means you learn how to love others. The negativity of putting yourself down drags down those around you, especially those who are close to you. Your life is worth living and loving! Be the example to others of what it truly means to love life.
10. Become inauthentic. Loving life, however, does not mean you have to fake joy. You can choose to be happy while experiencing tragedy by acknowledging your emotions and choosing not to despair in them. You can weep on the ground because you’ve lost a loved one. That’s a healthy response to loss. Life is full of ups and downs, comedy and tragedy, conflict and awkward encounters, new beginnings and encores, but no matter what a person’s life tends to, the person’s life is still worth living. The idea that life needs to be constantly full of sunshine and butterflies without remembering the storms and mosquito bites makes people who aren’t living a carefree, easy, or abundant existence think that their life is lesser. Someone who usually lives a sunshine-y life might crumble at the first wind of a storm. Someone born into a storm and finally emerging from it into the rainbow might think that their life is only worth it because of the new situation. It’s not about what’s happening in your life that makes it worth living; it’s life itself that is worth it. Why? I guess you’ll have to keep living to figure that out. You’ll notice it more and more that you drop these negative, culture-of-death-promoting habits.
Image: Miss.Monica.Elizabeth [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]