Respect your elders.
Respect your peers, teachers, friends, family.
If we give respect, we’ll get respect.
Respect goes both ways.
We’ve heard plenty of these growing up.
However, there is a saying that goes: “Respect is earned, not given”, although I do not know where that saying originated from, I do understand that respect is universal. This suggests that you cannot expect people to treat you with respect just because you want them to, are older, or in a position of power. The ones who cling onto this saying are able to acknowledge that not everyone is equal, we aren’t obligated to respect someone just because their existence is stereotypically of a different standard than others. In order to earn respect, it must be proven that the person is worth spending energy and time on. Respect is not the same as treating everyone equally, for example, in professional settings such as an office, it means to maintain the proper pace and keep up without having to suck up to superiors in order to get ahead. Even in a prison, it means knowing how to handle different types of people without disrespecting anyone. “Earning” one’s respect isn’t always something you can prove in a physical sense, but when it is, it means proving that you are capable of being on the same foot as everyone else.
Despite all that, you do not need to respect someone if you feel as if they do not deserve it. I used to think respect was owed because of my environment, not through my family, but more so my school environment and the influence that media had on me at a young age. Although I do understand that in many cultures it is customary to respect those who are older than you. While I do think it’s important to be kind and polite to everyone, if I sense a hint of disrespect I do tend to talk back and defend myself. It used to be easier for me to be submissive and let people get away with saying certain things to me that I should not have been okay with. Notably, I would not automatically give someone my respect unless there is something about them that makes it clear to me that they mean no harm or have no ill-intent.
For example, if there is an older professor publicly ridiculing me, a student; I do not owe that person anything just because they have “power” over me. I could be as rude as I want to be as there is no need for me to give this professor any sort of respect if he does not even give his students the same level of human decency. People ought to be treated with some extent of respect, at least until they show reasons not to. We shouldn’t have to be afraid of standing up to people who do not respect others.
There are multiple levels of respect that I believe could even be measured on a 0-100 scale. There are many factors that will influence the way I treat someone on a day to day, or case by case, basis. In a workplace, there needs to be a balanced amount of earned and/or given respect. I once worked for a company that played favorites with their employees. The managers respected the older (how long they have been working there) employees who were able to keep up with sales per hour, keep displays tidy—and did not show the same respect to new hires. It was a suffocating environment to be in because earned and owed respect were not balanced. Yet I was still expected to blindly follow their every command, and was still not worth helping out if I needed help. When only earned respect matters and there is very little owed respect, team members who aren’t superstars become very, very discouraged. But there is also the level of respect where I understand that people have bad days. If I meet someone, my level of respect starts out at 50/100. Through time, you can either accumulate respect points with me, or lose it.
Overall, I believe respect is earned, but there are cases where it is owed and you need both to have balance. Value those who play a role in your life, even if it’s minor. Correspondingly, I still think the way a person conducts themselves around people is how they maneuver things to get their way. If owed respect is the default setting, it becomes a lot easier to succumb to stress, pressure, or anger. The most effective way to show and give respect is by being authentic. Don’t feign interest, don’t feign cruelty, as a human you have my respect, until it comes to other things (actions, words, deeds), because that you’ll have to earn.