Respect and disrespect / by kevin murray

Watch enough reality TV and one of the most common themes that you will encounter is the participant's perspective on respect and disrespect.  There are very few comments about how respectful various people are to one another, but there are a ton of comments about how so-and-so disrespected a certain individual and how wrong or intolerable that this behavior was.  When it comes to being disrespected which occurs to everyone to some degree from time-to-time, there is a wide range of responses, from one of blithe and serene unconcern, to a violent and visceral reaction, with everything else in-between.


The first thought about disrespect, is that the people that complain most vociferously about being disrespected, are typically not all that respectful of a person to begin with, along with often having problems with their own self-image and confidence.  That is to say, only someone of the most childish personality insists that everyone does things "his way or else", as if their command should always be obeyed.  That type of attitude lends itself to being disrespected, because it is of itself, not worthy of a mature person's respect.


When it comes to respect and disrespect, it should never be a zero-sum game, to which your attitude cannot be that "I will give respect to others only when they have given respect to me".  Your attitude should instead be of being respectful to all to the best of your ability, with the understanding that by giving respect you will often gain respect, but not always will this occur.  In point, some people aren't going to be respectful, some people are ignorant about respect, some people are having a bad day or a bad week or a bad life, so you cannot expect total respect, but by doing your part, you make the world a better place.


Respect may also come down to power, that is to say, those in power, expect as a matter of course that they will be accorded more respect than they dish out, because they have "earned" it.  This type of thinking has two serious flaws, to which firstly, there are way too many people that perceived themselves as being "mightier or holier than thou" when in fact their perceptions are way off-base. The second issue is that respect and disrespect should be perfectly balanced, as you shouldn't insist on one standard for you, and a completely different standard for another.


Another very important aspect of respect is too often there are those that are respected that wrongly believe that this respect that they receive is because of their good works, their intelligence, their gifts, or whatnot, when, in fact, the respect accorded them should really be marked down to mere servility.  True respect comes from the self-discipline to show honor to another out of one's own volition in tribute not so much to the person himself, but to the institution or to social graces themselves, it is a voluntary submission done as a part of good social intercourse.  


Too often those that cry out that they have been "disrespected" are in fact, crying out that they lack the belief in the good judgment of others to perceive the situation for what it is, or that they have "lost face" with their peers so that this allege disrespect must be rebuked.   This sort of rash judgment to overturn an act of disrespect often ends rather poorly for all involved, whereas a more self-assured and confident person could readily play it off with the grace of a wise and knowing man.