some thoughts on respect

i don't respect just anybody. i might be polite, but you have to earn my respect.

i've been hearing this a lot lately--the form of the statement changes slightly, but the sentiment is the same.

it bothers me, particularly coming from folks who are about 13-25 years old.  some folks even make a slightly dubious distinction between "respect" and "common courtesy" that i don't really understand. 

now, this boondocks episode brings home the fact that not every elder--or person--is to be "respected". 

similarly, i realize that some folks have been raised hearing some version of, "respect your elders" in response to having to put up with some bullshit.  sometimes clearly abusive bullshit.  that's unfortunate.  but as we grow, we should come to understand that the mistakes of our elders shouldn't result in a defiant disrespect of nearly everyone.  it means we should put them and their actions in their rightful place while attempting to gain a clearer understanding of what respect actually is.

respect is NOT
  • kissing ass
  • glossing over silly/unethical/wrong behavior because someone is older than and/or holds some position of power over you
  • confidence (e.g. telling all your business) 
  • intimacy

respect IS (in part)

(a) esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I have great respect for her judgment.

(b) deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment: respect for a suspect's right to counsel; to show respect for the flag; respect for the elderly. [emphasis added] (source)

in my humble opinion, (a) defines the kind of respect one could argue should be "earned".  and, of course, intimacy, confidence and respect are not necessarily mutually exclusive; respecting someone can lead to those things, depending on the circumstance.

however, if we expand the hierarchical language to a more inclusive view, (b) defines the basic respect i feel we should extend to all sentient beings we share space, time and energy with, essentially because you don't know one's position until or unless they tell you.

that old woman you met on the bus stop could be a queen mother in her homeland.  that child you sneered at for vocalizing too loudly could  be a prodigy.  that local celebrity who was just rude to you--the one you adored a half hour ago and now you're tearing apart on your blog--could have just lost one of her parents, but had to come to an autograph signing anyway.

you simply do not know.

before you talk about how someone needs to earn your respect--or when you hear someone say it--ask some questions.  what are your goals? are you working towards something that will result in your being respected?  who taught you about respect?  were they really worthy of it, or were you just fearful of them?

i'm gonna hop off the soapbox.  what do y'all think about this?

No comments: