Respect is something that must be earned

I disagree. Respect is something you choose to give. It is not based on achievement. It is not based on personality. Respect is given because you value people. Inherently.

A position may be earned. A title. Leadership. However, respect is something that we choose to give.

People who are respected tend to behave in a manner worthy of how they are being treated. Obviously, that is not universal, but it is common enough to be worth noting. If you want people to behave well and treat others around you with kindness and gentleness, then treat them well. Do unto others…

There is another misconception about respect. Sometimes, people get the idea that one must always agree when showing respect. That is not true. It is very possible, and fruitful, to disagree and even argue in a manner that demonstrates politeness and consideration. If you value someone, you will want to tell them the truth. You will want to share your opinions with them honestly and completely. That can be done without berating the person, without insulting them or their opinions, and without causing hurt, guilt or shame.

It disappoints me when I hear people say, “I don’t respect the position, the uniform, or the title. If this guy wants my respect, he will have to earn it.” Respect may be earned by those who excel at something. However, this is not the foundation. We start by treating all people well, but we may find there are some who represent ideals in life that we wish to strive for ourselves, and who we wish to honor further. That is what “earning respect” is all about.

If someone needs to earn your respect, then you do not actually respect the person, you are only respecting their achievement, talent, or attirbutes. If you respect a person, you choose to do so without regard to what they have or have not done. Respecting their achievement, talent, or attributes is another thing entirely, and while this is not bad, it has very little to do with respecting the actual person.

4 thoughts on “Respect is something that must be earned

  1. I totally agree in your definition of respect – only that I personally tend to respect everyone – until they prove they don’t deserve me respecting them. This is sometimes quite hard to get through – as there are many out there missusing this behavior.

    And as you stated – argue if you think something is not correct.
    However – many tend to see this as an attack to their personality – which often makes arguing difficult.
    Anyway – nicely written.

    If more people on this planet would handle this way – there would be no more war !

  2. I have to respectfully disagree with your conclusion, even though I agree fully with your observations.

    You almost seem to contradict yourself (or perhaps I’m reading you wrong). You say People who are respected tend to behave in a manner worthy of how they are being treated. Obviously, that is not universal, but it is common enough to be worth noting. If you want people to behave well and treat others around you with kindness and gentleness, then treat them well. Do unto others… That would seem to me to indicate they have earned the respect by how they behave and by how they treat others.

    When I first “met” you on the Ubuntu Forums, I didn’t respect or disrespect you right away. I hadn’t made up my mind. I don’t respect titles. I respect people. And over the course of years, you have earned my respect based on how you treat others, how you express yourself with sensitivity toward various diverse groups while remaining strict and firm if you have to be.

    Respect, as far as I’m concerned is all the way earned. You earn it by giving it to others.

    Or maybe that’s what you were saying all along, and I just didn’t get it.

  3. Perhaps the problem is the language I chose to use is ambiguous. It seems obvious to me that respect may be earned, but my main point was that the starting point of how we treat people should not be a baseline of “no respect.”

    If people have to wait to earn the first little bit of respect before we treat them well, that would be contrary to what I am expressing.

    My hope is that we treat people with kindness, gentleness, and with a manner that implies they begin a relationship with us at a baseline level of respect that is positive. This does not rule out an increase in how much we respect or honor them in the future, but it does say that we choose to allow all people to enter in to relationships with us with the scales already tipped in their favor until they prove to us they deserve otherwise.

  4. I enjoyed reading your article on respect and I feel as though respect is a two way street. No one can say to a person I “DEMAND RESPECT” and expect to get it if they don’t show it first. THis world of our should not be a dictatorship. Treat people the way you wish to treated and most of the time you will be treated the same way back. This world is not a perfect one but if everybody showed respect there would be allot less heartache among many.

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