As we wrestle with the problems of immigration, most of us root around for solutions.

We read letters to the editor declaring we must open our borders to anyone who wants to live here if we call ourselves Christians.

Others quote the Statue of Liberty’s “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses ...”

Opinions range from inviting all the needy to being responsible only for ourselves.

All of us agree we must find solutions, and yet history has proven that “the solution often becomes another problem.”

The trouble is all of those statements make SOME sense, leaving us still searching for what will work best.

The late psychiatrist Alfred Adler strongly recommended the principle of mutual respect. For any relationship to be effective the parties involved must always be mutually respectful.

That includes us. I must respect you, you must respect me. I must respect myself and you must respect yourself.

If all four of those are true, we’ll have the best tools for problem-solving. If any one of them is missing, we’re in trouble, and when two or three are missing, we have little hope of an effective solution.

If you come to visit me and plop your muddy shoes on my sofa, I’d see that as disrespectful. Now I have to respect myself by asking you please to either put your shoes or your feet on this newspaper I’m laying on the floor.

If I don’t take care of my sofa (myself), I’m going to really resent you for dirtying it up.

Still, many of us were taught to be well-mannered. So we keep quiet and end up hating you as we call a cleaning company to come fix the couch.

If even the smallest details of any relationship require such mutual respect, it’s not surprising that the big ones really beg for it.

Applying that rule to the immigration problem is necessary but, admittedly, not simple.

If we open our borders to one and all we’re being very respectful to the poor people longing to come to us for help, but not at all respectful to ourselves.

While it would be lovely if we could afford to send everybody money to improve their lives, we don’t have enough.

Furthermore, we’d be disrespecting our fellow Americans by expecting them to foot the bills for food, education, medical needs, housing, and more.

Okay, let’s say we all agree with Dr. Adler in wanting to be respected and respectful at all times. How do we start?

First, I’d say, by listening. Everybody wants to talk, but few of us are willing to listen, and yet it’s highly disrespectful to avoid listening to others’ opinions.

No one person or group can solve these intensely important issues. The only way it can happen is in compromise.

We have to be willing to discuss each question within any size groups, in which there might be as many solutions presented as there are people.

True, it takes a lot of time, and we’d probably need to set timers to limit each person’s minutes. If someone wants to hog the floor (there are usually several), s/he’d be cut off by the respectful timer.

Only then could we begin constructing possible ways to compromise. Next we’d follow through by voting. It’s astonishing how few people vote, and yet vote we must.

We could achieve so much more if we stuck to the principles of mutual respect, which can be found in every belief system: atheism, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Judaism, Islam, New Age, Taoism and all the others.

Let’s give it some attention.

Lee Marie Schnebly is a musician, author of self-help books and retired counselor. She has been married 61 years and is a mother of four. Contact Lee Marie at