Respect Means a Lot of Different Things
In technical definitions, respect is equated to a feeling of admiration towards someone. Respect is associated to kindness. To follow this logic would lead to the idea that if you respect someone, you are supposed to treat that person well. This is the simple understanding that everyone has towards respect but in reality, the concept of respect can be multifaceted depending on what context it is situated.
In the society, we are trained to have an automatic sense of respect towards individuals who are superior to us, especially those who hold positions of authority. Following this idea, it is important how one’s understanding of respect is first shaped: at home and inside the classroom. Technically, the family is built with a sense of mutual respect coming from the family members. For children, they do not automatically come to terms with what the meaning of respect truly is but they gradually acquire an understanding towards it which they are able to apply in other societal situations. In the classroom, it is required that we show respect for our teachers. Since our teachers are the ones who are educating us, the society has instilled the idea that we must give respect to our teachers. Not doing so would give us a bad name. In the context of a much wider society, respect is also needed when it comes to dealing with figures of authority. Most times, this is the kind of respect that can be considered as “forced.” Even if we do not like these people because of their traits, we are obliged to treat them with respect because there might be legal and technical repercussions. This is why it is important to understand that respect is not always freely given. It would always depend on the context of the situation on how respect is given meaning.
Respect is something that is not demanded, rather it is earned. This is why in situations that respect is demanded, this can imply that this is not the legitimate form of respect; rather it can become a compromise in order to stay within the bounds of acceptable social relationships and interactions. Formal interactions between individuals are filled with respect yet levels of respect also vary depending on the level of social relationship. Usually, respect is perceived as the marker of the boundaries of the social relationship; the higher the level of respect, the more meaningful the relationship. Of course, all of these are dictated by different societal dynamics. It is also important to understand that people have individual perceptions on what respect really means. For many, in order to know how to give respect, it is important to know that respect should also be directed inwards; towards the self. Self-respect is a facet of the concept of respect that is usually ignored. Most say that self-respect can be narcissistic but in reality self-respect can be considered as a gateway on a more meaningful definition of respect in the society. With self-respect, an individual is able to see himself or herself as a functional member of the society along with other individuals. Through this, a more respectful society can also be fostered.
Ultimately, despite how certain dynamics of the society may say otherwise, respect is still a choice. It is hard to oblige ourselves to give respect to people who do not see us in the same light. If respect is an obligation, it loses its meaning. It should be freely given to those who actually earn it. This is why there must be a greater understanding of what respect really is and it’s quite right to start with know that it has no singular meaning.