I Don’t Get No Respect

Respect … is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
– Annie Gottlieb

Many characteristics of human nature are hard to pin down and define, but respect ranks up there with the hardest.

You don’t think that respect is part of human nature? Well it’s the flip side of self esteem, which most people consider to be a component of human nature.

Some people find it difficult to get respect from others. Some lack a healthy dose of self esteem. The two, in a way, go together. Someone with self esteem often has the ability to earn respect from others.

Generally speaking, adults don’t give much consideration to giving respect to children. What they do instead is work to build their self esteem.

Respect comes in two flavours: the kind owed to another by virtue of the position that person holds (such as a senior officer in the military or a headmaster in the schools of old) and the kind that a person must earn. Kids haven’t lived enough to have earned the latter kind of respect for themselves, though they all experience the former kind somewhere along the line.

A third kind of respect should be what we have for what already is, for its current state, for just being. We should respect nature rather than destroy it (and perhaps ourselves in the bargain). We should respect what countless generations of humans have accomplished over the millennia since our ancestors emerged from a core line of primates.

We should also respect every person. But some people don’t deserve our respect, you may say. The reason they don’t deserve our respect today may be because they have no idea how to earn it and they have no past experience of being respected when they most needed it as children and adolescents.

If we deny those who don’t deserve our respect the third kind of respect, respect we would give to any person, then we will surely perpetuate the bad behaviour of that person. That person will become more anti-social. We don’t need more anti-social people.

The Christian Bible and several similar documents tell us that we should honour (respect) our father and mother. In principle, this is worthy of being one of the Ten Commandments. But not all parents deserve respect based on their behaviour.

An adult who offers little respect to other adults is unlikely to give much to a child, whether the child deserves it based on his performance or behaviour or simply based on basic human respect for others. However, unlike adults who usually develop skills to defend themselves against those who offer them no basic human respect, children seldom have such skills. No one is born with those defence skills.

When the skills of defending yourself against others who do not respect you as a person are learned in childhood, they’re internalized, they remain with you for life. They may be learned by adults, but an adult in this position may be like a recovering addict, always on the verge of falling into the pit of low self esteem unless they have support from another person.

In past generations the command kind of respect was taught in schools. Every child learned this kind of respect or received thrashings until he did. In today’s schools teachers often don’t understand that the command kind of respect no longer exists or is even expected in schools. They must earn the respect of their young charges or they won’t receive it.

Some teachers don’t know how to earn respect because all they have to work with is the curriculum and respect is seldom found in school curriculum.

Most teachers experienced one or more teachers who earned the respect of their students by virtue of their teaching skills and their manner of educating. But they may not have been taught how to earn that kind of respect for themselves in their own classrooms. Earning respect usually can’t be found on the curriculum of any teacher training course.

The way most teachers know about this kind of earned respect is to have experienced enough of it themselves with their own teachers and to have been taught it by them.

If you want to earn the respect of others, know something they want to know or be able to do something they admire. Once you know something or have some special skill, use it to benefit others. Only through actions can we earn respect htat bolsters self esteem.

In the process of earning respect from others, we may experience a clear lack of it from some of our peers. That’s normal. That’s life. That’s something that every one of us needs to learn how to overcome because some people are just mean and insensitive.

Eventually, as we become more knowledgeable in a subject or skilled with something, we can demonstrate this to help others, or to entertain them. Only then will we earn respect from them for our specialness.

However, we also need to teach our children that the better they become at something and the more they use this for the benefit of others, the more naysayers and critics they will face. Everyone who is popular, everyone who has earned the respect of others, will have a few who want to downplay the importance and relevance of our skills or knowledge.

Geeks, once social outcasts in high schools, now have respect for their skills because schools teach that their kind of knowledge and skills will pay off in the working world. In other words, in a money-oriented society, having the skills and potential to earn lots of money as an adult earns respect from other kids.

If you are in a position to teach a child or an adult how to gain the respect they desire from others by having exceptional skill or knowledge, be sure to include a warning that they should expect friction from others who are jealous of them.

It’s a characteristic of human nature that if you don’t have some enemies or naysayers, you likely don’t have enough supporters to earn the respect of a great many people.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the tough questions in life a bit easier to understand.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

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One thought on “I Don’t Get No Respect

  1. Greatly enjoyed this post. I’ve been blogging about respect for quite a while now and ramming my head against a wall when it comes to my Godson who tells me to respect his ‘elders’ is to correct them when they are wrong. A thought process I hadn’t encountered before.

    I appreciate this piece and I think you’re right, that respect that was demanded, expected, doesn’t exist anymore. I grew up with that kind of ‘respect’ and learned to see the value of it. I guess I’m a bit of a dinosaur.

    Peace to you

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