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Saturday, January 14

Respect

Respect is the attitude of acknowledging the feelings and interests of another party in a relationship, and of treating as consequential for the self the helping or harming of the other....

Respect is sometimes loosely used as a synonym for politeness or manners, though these are behaviours, whereas respect is an attitude. Intercultural differences in behaviours, self perception and outward appearance may result in the unintentional appearance of disrespect.


When I was very young, I remember adults trying to teach me to respect my elders. It didn't make any sense to me.

I thought respect should be earned. Someone who was dishonest with me, didn't listen to me seriously, or expected me to believe things that they couldn't explain to my satisfaction generally didn't have my respect. Many adults - sometimes the very ones who demanded respect the loudest - seemed petty, dishonest, and mean - certainly not people I should look up to. Other adults who said such things just seemed to be a bit naive - thinking that all adults were worthy of respect.

Respect, to me, meant thinking someone was good and right about things (and nice, a kind of goodness). It meant I listened seriously to what they had to say and considered it before making up my own mind about it. It meant that I took their word in the best possible way. It didn't mean I would agree with them or comply with their wishes if I thought it wrong to. It meant that I'd give them the benefit of the doubt.

It was a self-centered way of thinking about it. It didn't occur to me to "help" them out of respect for them although I did tend to want to help people I felt respect for.

Obedience was a different issue. I was willing to be generally obedient to adults who fed and clothed me so long as it wasn't harmful to someone else - even if I didn't have respect for them. Perhaps it was a degree of respect or appreciation.

Judging how some people use respect, I thought that they really meant "agreement" or at least "pretended agreement".

I think if someone had clearly distinguished "respect" from "politeness" and suggested the latter, it might have made more sense to me.

It didn't occur to me to earn the respect of others. Of course, I wanted to be listened to and considered seriously. I didn't think of it as "respect" toward me. It didn't occur to me that I hadn't earned it. I think that I saw myself as honest and as good as I knew how to be. Maybe, implicitly, I felt like I had earned it, but it seemed that I wasn't given it by some people - people who seemed to think that children, by default, shouldn't be treated respectfully. Children generally weren't treated with respect - even when they appeared to have earned it.
created 1/13/06

1 comment:

Leo said...

This is a good one. People do confuse respect with politeness, and I had that feeling, but I wasn't very aware of it.