I hear this a lot: Respect must be earned.
I’m sure we’ve all said it, and at some level we all believe it. We believe it because it sounds like an excellent idea, a lesson everyone needs to learn. And yet, when examined a little deeper, I’m not so sure it’s our best play.
After all, haven’t each of us been in crisis or misunderstanding? Haven’t we all needed respect at times when maybe we haven’t earned it?
If respect must be earned, how does anyone move forward meeting new people or helping others in crisis? How do we deal with a child in a tantrum? How do we expect others will understand us when we are angry and lashing out? I am certainly guilty of this. I doubt if I go any full day with perfectly respectful comportment. I’m sure I act like a fool to somebody in some way on a daily basis.
If respect must be earned, where does that bank account have its beginnings? Doesn’t at least one party have to give respect even though it hasn’t been earned on the other end? Where is the risk in extending others respect? After all, we aren’t exactly talking about trusting someone with our nest egg, deepest secrets, or car keys. It takes zero actual risk to extend respect, deference, or courtesy. It takes zero risk to conduct oneself respectfully even though the surrounding world might be filled with anger, lies, and backstabbing.
Respect, like love, is something that flows from within us to the outside world. Respect isn’t earned. It’s radiated. When we radiate respect, other people can sense it, and they tend to enjoy it. That’s one reason why respect is good. People connect to it. But if we are always waiting for others to earn our respect before we give it, what is there to connect to?
When we conduct ourselves with respect and extend it to the world around us, we become powerful, shining examples for others. When others see us showing respect without it being returned in a transaction, they see strength, resilience, and composure, and this observation is often the point at which they come to understand the true nature of respect. Once the true nature of respect is understood, its real power can be unleashed. Respect as a transaction is extremely limited, but respect as a radiating light has the power to change the world.
Trust me on this, you will get far more respect when you stop demanding that others earn your respect. Give it. You’ll get plenty back. And even if you have to bear some disrespectful actions of others, when you understand that respect can exist a) in infinite amounts, b) without a transaction, and c) even while you are surrounded by people acting like cold fools, you won’t care. Your radiating respect will keep you as warm as you will ever need to be.
Need more warmth in your life? Radiate more respect, even if it hasn’t been earned.