It’s an odd thing when we let a ‘motherhood’ statement rule our decisions and get in the way of rational thought. One such statement is, “respect must be earned”.
On first utterance it seems logical and indeed truthful to say that someone must earn the right to be respected. After all, why should we respect someone unless they have proved to us personally that they can be respected?
But what are we really saying?
The moment we say someone must earn respect we are conveying to the world that we have set ourselves up as sole judge of their societal norms and we will make a binding decision as to whether or not they are worthy to join our self imposed lofty ranks of the great respected.
The trouble is that firstly we may not be part of that high and mighty echelon and secondly, the other person probably has the same thoughts about us and is waiting for us to prove ourselves. A circular and dysfunctional dichotomy me thinks.
Alternatively, let me put the rather odd proposition that everyone is entitled to respect from the get go. Then life becomes simple and easy. We get to enjoy others company, opinions and beliefs because we have not deemed ourselves automatically superior.
If we all wait for everyone else to show we are all worthy of each other’s attention then no one respects anyone and we live diminished lives. If we assume everyone is entitled to respect, we deal with everyone on an equal level and our lives are enhanced.
But, this does not mean you have to believe in everything they believe in, far from it.
I try to respect a person for their values and the way they treat others even if for example they have the temerity and to be part of a different religion or indeed have a different skin colour or wear pink socks. I can enjoy other people’s company, common discussions and even heated argument about opposing beliefs, if we have mutual respect. But without that mutual respect we spend the whole time trying to prove ourselves superior and end up hating each other for no reason other than a belief we are better than they. What a waste.
We always give children respect and don’t expect anything in return yet once those kids develop a cognitive ego they are automatically inferior pariahs until they prove otherwise.
I wonder how many of the world’s problems could be solved if we assumed respect without reservation? Indeed, I wonder if horrible teenagers are really good people and would live up to our respect for them if we were to actually show them some?
I may not like certain people and choose not to socialise with them but I can still respect them and their beliefs and, it feels good.