Sunday, June 22, 2008

Reflections on respect

"Respect has to be earned."

How many times have you heard this statement, or a variation of it? How many times have you yourself said it?

I agree with it, of course. I cannot expect people to respect me if I am not honest, don't do my work well, am not trustworthy, don't have integrity, and so forth. I cannot expect respect from other people if I am not worthy of respect.

But what about the respect that I give other people? Do they have to be worthy of respect before I show them respect? Do they have to conform to my standards of what I deem to be a person worthy of respect before I treat them with respect?

This is where I begin to have problems with the statement above. I've heard it used too many times as an excuse for rude, discourteous and condescending behavior.

"I do not respect you. Therefore, I will treat you like dirt. I am going to talk to you like you are the stupidest, most ignorant person on earth."

I believe that even if a person really is stupid and ignorant, that's no excuse to be rude. Even if the other person is rude, that's still no excuse for you to be rude to her.

I believe that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter how flawed they are.

I know it's difficult. I find it difficult. But the beautiful thing about it is, if you behave as if that obnoxious/difficult/stupid person you have to deal with is worthy of respect, she begins to believe it and act it. Until one day, she really becomes that person worthy of respect.

I hope that made sense. My thoughts have been in such a messy jumble for quite some time now.

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