Respect – What Is It? Why Do We Need It?

I try to discover a little something to make me sweeter. Oh, baby, refrain from breaking my heart.” – Erasure

In this blog post, we are going to talk about respect. Rest assured, Erasure will only be minimally involved. We’ll be covering some fairly highly debatable topics, and see if we can come up with some answers. Of course, we’ll also be using a number of loyalty and respect quotes to help get our points across. So, let’s dig in. What is respect? Why do we need it?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?” – Confucius

By definition, respect is a feeling of admiration towards others. It is usually based on one’s perceived accomplishments, skills, or qualities. Because of this external element, respect is often misattributed.

There are many people worth a whole lot more respect than they are shown, and others who don’t really deserve it but act in such a way that they are awarded it either way. But that’s just one type of respect. Respect is a complicated topic because it has multiple facets. And they’re not always so clearly distinguishable.

This may be a result of each of us internalizing the sentiment in a different way. For example, you can respect someone you’ve never met based on their reputation, but you can also disrespect someone you’ve known for years and not feel a modicum of guilt about it.

You can respect a place for what it stands for, and you can disrespect an institution for its practices. But it’s not something you can choose. Respect is tightly tied into one’s own morals, values, and viewpoint on life.

A nihilist will find it much more difficult to respect anyone or anything, since they see everything as meaningless, while someone with authority figure issues might respect unworthy parties just because of their position. So, what benefits does respecting someone bring? Moreover, what’s wrong with living your life with a complete lack of respect for anything?

Pros

Everyone should be respected as an individual, but no one idolized.” – Albert Einstein

Right off the bat, I want to say that every single human being deserves a bare minimum of respect based on the fact that they are individuals. This respect is often born from empathy. Since someone else is experiencing the human condition, we can sympathize with their plights. So, we have a degree of respect for them. But that’s not always the case.

Respect is so vital to our society because it influences how people treat each other. The more you respect someone, the better you will treat them and act in their presence. If we managed to find a way to get everyone to respect everyone else, we would be far better off as a civilization.

In a way, lack of respect is what leads to most of the world’s tragedies. When a company lies to and hurts its customers, it’s for a lack of respect. Murders and most accidents are caused by a lack of respect for human life and the legal system. Starvation and death by disease could also be greatly decreased if we respected life more than we do money.

But respect isn’t something you just get. With our current way of looking at things, respect is earned. And while that’s a very good thing when it comes to our societal status, it generally worsens the quality of life for most people.

Even worse is that respect is often perceived differently by different people.

Just like someone who stole an idea can be respected by millions, even lying to themselves to convince themselves that they deserve their lauds, someone who is worth far more respect and is seen as such by the masses can very well believe that they are not deserving of so much admiration. Respect is perhaps one of the most complicated emotions on the human spectrum.

Cons

There is no respect for others without humility in one’s self.” – Henri Frederic Amiel

One of the most immediately obvious detractors of respect is attributing power to the wrong person or institution. Respecting someone or something just because they are in charge is a very flawed mentality. More respect than the bare minimum required for a human being should only be given based on personal merit.

Whether we’re talking about skills, personal qualities, or achievements, it’s merit that should breed respect. Instead, we find ourselves forced by society’s standards to respect authority figures which have proven nothing to us.

They demand respect for their functions, but a title shouldn’t be invested with power – that system of rule is antiquated and proven faulty.

Another huge issue with respect is that it’s often confused for fear of authority. And people can employ authority and claim it to be worthy of respect. This can lead to any number of horrific situations.

If the wrong person gets enough respect and authority, they can be the next Hitler. If the right person is respected and has authority, they can improve the world beyond measure.

Ultimately, the main issue with respect is that it’s not a choice. You can’t choose to respect someone if your belief system doesn’t allow it. Similarly, you don’t really have a choice but to respect most authority figures you run into if that’s how you were raised. Sure, people change, but respect is generally tied into core beliefs which influence one’s personality. So, controlling it can be a Sisyphean task for most of us.

Best Approach

A person’s a person, no matter how small.” – Dr. Seuss

Like with most things in life, the best way to approach respect is with kindness, wisdom, and open-mindedness. Or, you know, with common sense. There are a few ways for us to employ respect without risking giving credit where credit isn’t due and while still treating others as human beings.

For one, we start treating others as human beings! As mentioned before, everyone deserves to be respected simply because they are humans. It is simply insulting and incredibly self-centered not to offer anyone a bare minimum of deference. We are all on the same ship and deserve some respect for making it so far.

However, when it comes to respecting those who demand it, critical thinking is, well, critical. Before respecting someone for what you’ve heard about them or because their title demands it, think about it. Do some research. Use Google. Think for yourself. Does that person deserve your further respect?

Of course, the current societal norms require us to be respectful to plenty of organizations and people who obviously don’t deserve it. But there are ways in which you can limit that respect. Moreover, there might actually be individuals in those functions and institutions who actually deserve your respect. It is our responsibility as fellow citizens to respect those who deserve it.

As Bertrand Russell put it, “One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny.

To conclude, respect is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is our most useful tool in determining how we treat and how we’re treated by others. On the other, it can be a weapon used by the powerful to remain in power. Only common sense, practice, and kindness can help you wield respect as it should be.

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