“Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.”
– Laurence Sterne
It’s at the core of every civil rights movement and seemingly in short supply at times. Respect is a powerful force – yet it is as delicate as a snowflake in the summer time; there are two sides to it, as well. A person composed of respect for all those around him will fail to succeed without respect for himself. Likewise, one who is filled to the brim with self-respect will only be arrogant and aloof to others if there is none left to share. It cuts both ways, you see, and no one can get anywhere without both ends.
Pressed for a definition, I would say that respect is earned reverence. This, of course, is much richer than reverence which is not earned – what we might call many different things such as infatuation, flattery, addiction, or manipulation. No, true respect can never be had without being earned. Perhaps just as importantly, respect can never be given without being merited.
An interesting thought which strikes me: You’ll never receive respect if you don’t give it away. To complicate things, however, you’ll come up short as well if you give yours away too freely and where it is not deserved.
Firstly, I want to ponder self-respect. I have said that respect is something which must always be earned. I don’t know if this is intuitive, but it’s just as true of yourself. If you do not respect yourself, it’s because you are doing nothing to earn it. Mind, there’s room for acceptance, compassion, and contentment here as well. If you feel this describes your life, then your first step is to determine why you aren’t satisfied with your own behavior? Is it because you simply aren’t trying hard enough? Have you made too many compromises to your values? Do you constantly find yourself in situations that you know are harmful?
Whatever the cause, it’s imperative that you get to the bottom of it – and spare no time! Even if the world looks on you in awe, you’ll never really reach your potential until you have an appreciation for who you are as a person.
Which brings us to respect for others. I stated already that this must be earned – but please don’t see that as license to neglect common decency. No matter the manner of person you’re dealing with, it’s still important that you treat them civilly – even if they might spit at your face. Showing intolerance and disrespect for others will never earn you the respect of the people you will be benefited to know.
Perhaps not surprisingly, respect is strongly correlated to honesty, integrity, and self-discipline. This actually makes the whole matter very simple to resolve and implement: if you develop these virtues in your life, you’ll find respect easy to obtain and maintain. Treat it like a snowflake, however, as a lifetime of good character can be undone in a single, foolish mistake. Practice the things which bring you respect from yourself and others you appreciate, and then guard it with your life!
Thank you for your time.