Respect is a funny concept. All around us, we see people demanding/giving respect for all the wrong reasons. In your family, respect your elders whether or not they deserve it. At school/college, respect your teachers, doesn’t matter if they can’t teach anything. At work, respect your seniors, regardless of how competent they are.
I often wonder why people demand respect. Shouldn’t respect be earned? If someone respects us only because we are in a position to demand it, isn’t such respect fake? If you ask me, I would like to be respected only for my abilities and qualities, not because my position demands it.
What perturbs me is that so many people are comfortable with fake respect. For example, I see so many subordinates who show respect to their superiors, whether or not they feel it inside. Usually they do so because they want to be politically correct. After all, they can’t afford to upset their boss!
Showing versus feeling respect
Showing respect is different from feeling respect. The former is a conceited attempt, used, or perhaps misused, for political or selfish gains. The latter is a naturally occurring phenomenon, inspired by legitimate appreciation of the other’s talent, quality or attitude.
Genuine respect is felt inside. It is earned by living a life that inspires and motivates. It is objective and unbiased. But, it is not demanded. Yet, we find our elders, seniors, and superiors insisting that we respect them?
The truth is that respect has nothing to do with age and seniority. In fact, it is possible that we may respect many people who are lesser than us in age, experience, or status. I respect many of my subordinates, not because they demand—they can’t!—but, because they command it through their work, their behaviour, and their attitude. On the other hand, I don’t feel respect for many of my seniors—because I find that they assert themselves needlessly, frequently to show their authority and feel in control.
Respect and authority
Sometimes, people curb their expression of respect, again for the wrong reasons. Bosses don’t “show” their respect to their subordinates, fathers to their sons, teachers to their students, and husbands to their wives, because they feel that doing so would lessen their authority. But respect feeds on respect. When we show genuine respect, the other respects us for our honesty and confidence.
Yes, showing genuine respect to others implies that we are confident of ourselves to feel secure and therefore we can let the others know that we respect them. This brings us to self-respect.
Commanding our own respect is most important. Self-respect is a necessary condition to give and receive respect. We can’t give to others what we don’t have for ourselves. And we can’t expect others to respect us if we don’t respect ourselves. So command, don’t demand respect!
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