“Respect is for those who deserve, not for those who demand it.”
— Paulo Coelho
Respect is a funny concept. All around us, we see people demanding as well as giving respect for all the wrong reasons:
— In your family, you are expected to respect your elders whether or not they deserve it; in many cultures, you need to respect your husband just because he is a man and you’re his wife, even if he always treats you poorly and doesn’t respect you at all.
— At school/college, you are expected to respect your teachers, doesn’t matter if they can’t teach their subject well.
— At work, you are required to respect your seniors, regardless of how competent they are.
Then there are people who demand respect because they are rich, powerful, famous, strong, attractive, talented, work in law enforcement or just because they belong to a certain race, religion, caste etc.
Why do people demand respect?
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 younger than us, have lesser experience, or are lower in social status.
“I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”
— Albert Einstein
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.
Why self-respect is vital
“Respect yourself and others will respect you.”
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 don’t forget to honour yourself; count your strengths and learn to respect yourself.
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