Respect should be given, not earned (in a certain sense.)

I’ve needed to rant for a while, but this isn’t a Pit-worthy rant:

It’s often stated that “Respect is earned, not given.” But I think that attitude is precisely part of the reason why civil discourse has become so ugly today. I would argue that, in a certain sense, a certain kind of respect is given, not earned.

I think there are two forms of respect: **Voluntary **and involuntary. The voluntary kind of respect - “admiration” - is the respect for someone, or something, who is praiseworthy, good or noble. This sort of respect can never be produced on demand; *only *earned, because it is nearly impossible to admire someone or something that despicable.

The second form of respect is **involuntary **respect. This respect has to do with position and status, not person. It is the respect for the President of the United States, the Queen of England, or a four-star general in the Army - regardless of what you may think of the person himself or herself.

During Bush’s presidency, I was bothered by liberals who refused to respect President Bush (the president) despite their dislike of Bush as a person, and during Obama’s presidency I am bothered by conservatives who will not show respect for President Obama (the president) despite their dislike of Obama as a person. (I think Romney’s “You’ll get your turn in a moment” quip to President Obama during the 2012 debates was inappropriate, for instance.) I think that one should respect the person who holds the presidency, due to the office that it represents, as a separate respect, even if one dislikes the person himself or herself.

Closely coupled with this is the growing inability of society to have respectful disagreement. The focus on *who *is right rather than *what *is right is part of the reason why society is so polarized and politics so venomous.

I think that society can get back in the direction of the right track by focusing on respecting a leader’s office or position* irrespective of liking or disliking that person as a person* (one can dislike Bush or Obama as much as they want while still showing respect to the presidential position/status.) Respectful disagreement opens doors despite being a voice of opposition, while disrespectful disagreement slams it shut.

Respect is taken for granted, until proved unworthy of it.

I prefer the word “dignity”. Dignity is a birthright, everyone is entitled to it at all times. Nobody has a right to deprive another of his dignity.

I don’t think the divide is between voluntary and involuntary. I think it’s a matter of individual respect and institutional respect.

You can individually respect a person for their own character and accomplishments. Or you can institutionally respect a person for the position they occupy. So you might institutionally respect the person who is holding the office of President of the United States even if you have no individual respect for that person.

Both forms of respect have to be earned. But in one case, it may have been earned by other people who held the position.

Ah thanks - much better wording. :slight_smile:

There is an old saying about respecting the position, not necessarily the man. It bothers me that it’s not enough to disagree with the President’s policies. Apparently he has to be a subhuman black devil as well.
I find that people who say things like “respect has to be earned” tend to be the sort of people who tend not to respect anything, except perhaps brute force. You see this with Trump supporters. The reason these people support Trump is because he represents what they respect. A loudmouth bully throwing his weight around, telling whoever he wants to fuck off and no one can do anything to stop him. And because he is doing it to the Liberals, reporters, foreigners, minorities and big-money politicians they hate, they love him for it.

Both Bush and Obama Derangement Syndromes are very unfortunate manifestations of our increasingly partisan politics. It’s getting dangerous imo.

I like both of these ideas.

We should all default to respecting our fellows. The guy standing ahead of line of you in the supermarket: be respectful. (Then he turns around and is wearing a Ku Klux Klan lapel pin. Okay… It’s in a public place, so we still have to behave respectfully. Sometimes we have to pretend.)

I chaff at the notion that I should be obligated to show respect to a person just because they are my leader.

I mean, I’m a reasonable person. Under normal circumstances, you can count on me to be on my best behavior with just about anyone, included an elected official.

But I’d like to think that under extreme circumstances, people wouldn’t give me a hard time for breaking decorum. For instance, I cannot promise that I will bow and scrape with a giant smile on my face for an evil tyrant, even if that’s what social etiquette would dictate in the oppressive dystopia I’m living in. I can only promise to do the bare minimum that will keep me out of the dungeon. I have a serious problem when rituals become equated with expressions of respect. Respectful silence, I can get behind. I will also address someone by their proper title (e.g., “President Trump”). But beyond that, I ain’t doing nothing else. No saluting, no curtesying, no bowing, no scraping, no crazy honorifics. I have no doubt that a narcissist somewhere thinks these are gestures of respect. But that doesn’t mean I have to indulge them.

I think we are getting our terms mixed up, because the term “respect” has some interrelated meanings. I think some precision would help.

The term respect should, IMHO, be limited to the genuine feeling of admiration for another person’s character or achievements. For example, I respect the person who sacrificed something to help his neighbor through hard times, purely out of concern for another person’s well-being. Some Presidents have earned my respect, others have not, but I do not think it is fair to give away respect to everyone who walks down the street.

The word I would use for what I think the OP is describing is courtesy. I think everyone is entitled to courtesy until they do something to prove otherwise. Courtesy should be given away like it is a prize that will vanish in a few hours. I don’t really have a problem with some folks being given rituals of courtesy that are not always equal. If I met the President, I’d stand up straight, shake his hand, and not call him by his first name. I would not do the same to a clerk in the grocery store, but I’m going to smile at the clerk, say please and thank you, etc.

I think part of courtesy is also being able to listen to others and think about what they said, even if you will never agree. Listening is important to communication, and communication breaks down walls. Not to the point that everyone will join hands and sing in perfect harmony, to maybe to the point where we don’t have to accuse everyone who watches the wrong cable news program of being traitors to America.

I think there is a baseline, a floor, and a ceiling to respect. Baseline is what every stranger gets by default. Floor is the “this is a human being so gets basic human decency and not a bit more.” Ceiling is there because no one is a god, no one is innately more than human, no one is always right, no one is above the law, no one should get blind, unthinking loyalty, etc. People gain or lose respect from me based on their words and deeds until they reach floor or ceiling.

I’m afraid I don’t agree with this viewpoint. It isn’t a bad characterization of the two words, but, in terms of public conduct, I would use “respect” and “courtesy” as synonymous.

(In terms of celebrities…or Presidents…I don’t feel obliged to hold any respect whatever…and since I never meet such people, I never have an opportunity to exhibit courtesy!)

Courtesy is an outward display, that does not necessarily reflect respect in your heart. In fact, courtesy evolved to conceal your real feelings. In a relationship of servility, for example a waiter and a diner in an expensive restaurant, they both display courtesy, but very often, neither has much respect for the other. When a cop is writing you a ticket, the situations drips with a tense and false courtesy, with no respect in sight.

I think it’s a good distinction. There’s a difference between “respecting someone” and “showing them respect”. I would call the later “courtesy”, and I think it’s a fair thing to do automatically.

I’m not really big on giving a leader more respect than I would any other person. Or, more specifically, I don’t want to give them any more respect simply because they hold a particular office. They have to do a good job. And what constitutes a good job is of course subjective. But I’ve never been bothered by the hate and vitriol directed at leaders. I might think the hate is stupid, but showing disrespect doesn’t bother me in and of itself. Unless it’s blatant racism/sexism/whatever.

Side note, as an Australian Republican, the best argument I’ve ever heard for keeping the royal family is that they can be who/what the more patriotic people throw their support and respect behind. As long as they’re around, we can talk shit about our Prime Minister to our hearts content.

Hmmm, very interesting discussion. I can’t help thinking that Republican shouting out, ‘Liar!’, at president Obama was something of a turning point, in a way.

For me it’s about giving what you want to get. You can’t control how the other guy behaves, only yourself. And there is no guarantee that if you treat others with dignity and respect, that they’ll return it in kind. But you can absolutely guarantee if you are disrespectful and insult the dignity of others things will only degrade further.

Obama is a good case and point. He has had every reason to wade into the shit and start slinging, he’s been on the receiving end of so much undeserved disrespect. (Surprisingly from people who used to be all about respect for the office of the President. Y’know, when it was their knucklehead sitting there!)

His presidency has been scandal free, himself and his family have never failed to behave with dignity. Or fail to demonstrate respect, even when being attacked on all sides!

And look how the people of America have treated him! All the while decrying the state of political discourse, etc, etc. What a curious bunch!