Life

Respect Shouldn’t Have to Be Earned, But Something Else Should

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Respect isn’t thought of the way it once was in our society these days, and I think it’s the biggest casualty of our negative mentality.

There was a time when everyone was taught to respect their elders, respect authority figures, and even respect their colleagues and contemporaries.

What I’ve seen over the past few decades — and the change has happened largely within my lifetime — is a major shift away from those old lessons. Now, people are quick to speak their minds whether prudence might suggest they not be as quick or even as thorough in doing so, and seemingly without regard to showing respect to anyone.

We’re angry.
We’re always angry.
And we don’t care if the whole world knows it.

(We don’t care, it would seem, whether the rest of the world remotely cares whether we, as individuals, are so angry; as long as we get to spell out our anger, that’s all that seems to matter.)

But when someone criticizes someone who has expressed themselves in a negative, rude, hurtful or disrespectful way, especially if the critic tries to defend the target of the rant, there’s a common response:

“[Insert name here] has yet to earn my respect.”

Earn?

Yes. Suddenly, the respect most of us with good manners learned was due our fellow man suddenly seems to be something people think one must earn first.

I’m not sure where this ridiculous notion came from, but somewhere along the way, respect became confused with something else, something much more valuable.

You shouldn’t have to work to receive respect from someone else. The very people who claim otherwise are proof of that statement, ironically: try not showing it to someone who thinks everyone else has to earn his first and see what happens! That person will go off even harder, furious that he himself had been “disrespected.”

You can respect someone even if you disagree with their opinions.

You can respect a co-worker with whom you do not get along.

You can respect a complete stranger, even the one on your commute who you think doesn’t drive as well as you do.

You can respect someone who opposes you politically or socially and who chooses not to show you the same courtesy.

I apologize in advance to anyone for whom this comes as news, but you’re not better than anyone else. We’re all on the same journey, a tragically short journey in the span of time, from birth to death. Each of us is valuable in a unique way.

We all, each of us, is entitled to be treated as such.

It’s trust that should be earned.

I remember a time when people didn’t make such a big deal about respecting each other, but they certainly chose wisely in whom they invested trust.

Trust with a problem, trust with a glimpse inside their personal lives, trust with their money, trust with their care.

You are quite right to spend time gauging a fellow person to see if they’re worthy of your trust. If you trust everyone, there’s a good chance, sooner or later, that you’ll get burned.

If you show everyone, even those you don’t necessarily trust, some respect, you’ll rarely, if ever, get burned.

I wish we could go back to the days when that didn’t seem like such an alien concept. If we could, the world would, I think, be a much better place.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.