Respect has been on my mind much of late because an incident that happened recently. I won’t go into details, because they are both irrelevant and not mine too share. But it brought respect to the forefront of my mind. And, of course, once something is on my mind, it doesn’t go away until it’s good and ready or it has an outlet. And I figured instead of letting this one fade away, that I give it an outlet.
You see, my faith demands that I give respect, but also that I earn respect. I think most of us can agree on these, at least in theory. But how do we apply it?
I don’t know about you, but I grew up with a twisted view of respect. You see, my father demanded that I respect him, no matter how reprehensibly he behaved – how undeserving of respect that he was. And he demanded that I earn his respect, withholding it as punishment when lectures and corporal punishment was no longer effective or prudent (once I was physically large enough to defend myself against corporal punishment).
So when respect was shown to me to be so very important to my Gods, I had to start from scratch understanding respect. The first is understanding there are two very basic forms of respect – acquired and afforded. Afforded respect is the respect we should give every living thing by simple rights that it is/they are a living, feeling thing or person. Every person you encounter, every animal that this world deserves the right to basic necessities and kindness. (except spiders, of course, who are the only pure form of evil, but I digress) Every person or animal you encounter should be given the respect of the living or the honor of the dead. Because you do not know them, do not know the struggles they gave and the burdens they carry. Honour them and respect them for that alone.
But hold yourself to a higher honour, to be worthy of respect – acquired respect. To live a life of honour and goodness, even if that respect is not given. To give your respect to those worthy of it. This is a higher form of respect, but not a greater. Afforded respect is the foundation from which we build our self-respect, our acquired respect, and the respect that others earn from us.
You see, I do my best not to disrespect people, even those I don’t like. Even if they disrespect me first. Why? Because I am commanded to live an honourable life, even if those around me don’t live by the same standards that I do my best to hold myself to. And because occasionally I fail, so who am I to judge others who are struggling – possibly failing as well? Where is the honour in that?
All any of us can do is live a life worthy of honour, to respect all things and all people, and to give honour to those who have earned it. If you see someone struggling, and maybe even failing, either help them, if you can, or at the very least, don’t judge them unless their actions are hurting others. Then you must do whatever is in your power to protect those being harmed. Or at least, that is the standard I hold myself to.