Fake Respect

"Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be."
-Leo Tolstoy
There are, I believe, two types of respect. One type of respect is how you feel about someone, and the other is how you act towards someone. Of course, the two overlap rather frequently. However, I believe also that respect can be faked, and that this happens very often in our modern society. In fact, not only does it happen frequently, but it is celebrated on Facebook and other websites, as well as in real life. This is detrimental to society and to our relationships with others, and yet we have it so deeply ingrained in our heads that oftentimes we act upon it even without realizing it. I believe that we ought to root out this fake respect and pay special attention to how we treat people.

The type of respect that you feel for someone is based off of how you feel about them. (*Gasp!*) You've seen something in them that you admire, or you trust them, or you look up to them, or whatever the cause may be, and you feel respect for them. The respect from your actions is, in a sense, based on this type of respect. When you feel respect towards someone, you act a certain way towards them. Not to say that you become perfect when you're around them; you can still make mistakes or offend them accidentally. But you try not to. You want them to like you. You want to make things easier for them. The way that you feel respect for them may change the specifics of how you behave, but in any case, it will show through your actions. Maybe you'll call them sir. Maybe you'll offer them your seat. Maybe you'll greet them with a firm handshake and a warm smile. But whatever it is, it will show.

Visual respect doesn't require someone to feel respect, however. There is a certain type of respect that is owed to a person simply because they are a human being created by God in His image. In this sense, you can show respect for someone without feeling anything different towards them. Unfortunately, there is also fake respect. Terms that are (sometimes) meant to sound respectful, but really aren't. On a lower level, examples of this might be saying "good for you" when someone has made a point or statement. What this really means is, "I don't like what you said, and I don't even care enough about you to respond properly, so shut up and go away." However, in masking it as something respectful, it actually turns out to be even more disrespectful than the latter statement, because you're not even willing to speak to them openly.

There are all sorts of situations where fake respect can real its ugly head. It may involve speaking to someone in a very sweet manner and using words like "honey" or "dear," but still speaking down to them. It may involve a dismissal of some kind (e.g., "good for you," as mentioned earlier, or "bye bye," often with emphasis on the second "bye"). Once it gets to a higher level, it may be much more subtle, such as simply refusing to directly address what someone has said and instead bringing up nearby topics that may be almost relevant. But in each case, regardless of how in depth it is, it is disguised as respect in one way or another.

Fake respect is often celebrated in our culture- people can become very passive aggressive, and there are even pictures online labeled as "passive aggressive wins." Each time, you don't like what someone is doing, or you simply don't like the person, so, whether consciously or not, you attempt to "get back at them" in a way that's socially acceptable, so that people won't call you out on it. It becomes habitual, and it becomes celebrated, and a passive aggressive nature replaces the basic respect that we ought to have for our fellow human beings. In order to change the habits that we've formed, we must pay special attention to how we're treating people, and recognize that they are valuable, whether we like them or not.
"Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike."
-Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling)

1 comment:

  1. This topic has enormous importance.

    The quote from Rowling is accurate. The concept of indifference and neglect in a relationship is covered by a single word: contempt. If a person dislikes another, or even passionately hates that person, there is an implicit value conveyed. The disliked person is worthy of attention and thought. It's pretty lousy, but if someone is regarded with contempt they are not worth remembering, considering, caring about in any way. If someone hurts another, but has neither remorse nor apology, that is contempt. It is the direct opposite of love, and it hurts.

    Respect, especially for a man, is something that must be present to feel loved. A disrespected man is an unloved man, and you cannot convince him otherwise.

    Interesitingly, there is a common and strongly held belief that love should be completely unconditional. But particularly in a marriage, respect is equally important. The husband needs respect as much as the wife needs love. If the wife is denied love, not one person will ask her if she has *earned* her husband's love. Withholding love would crush her spirit over the long haul. A similar thing happens to a husband from whom respect is withheld. A man can become crushed and ashamed and totally ineffective if he has to deal with this for a long time.

    I think that love and respect are similar in the sense that they both require the whole person to be involved. What I mean is that body, soul, and spirit need to be engaged in order for the respect to be real. Emotions are hard to pin down and we frequently assume that they cannot be controlled at all. That is only partially true. You can decide in your soul that you will stoke your spirit to feel the emotion, and your body can do the things that are in keeping with the promise and the emotion. The feeling may ebb and surge at times, and that is normal. Still, if you make a wedding vow to love, cherish, and honor your spouse, but those things are humanly uncontrollable, then that vow is an incredibly cold, cruel joke.

    You use your will to decide to love|respect. Based on the determination of your will, you use your mind find things in the imperfect person that inspire love|respect and you stoke those feelings. Then you act on it sincerely.

    That is not always an easy process. The first point is that there are *some* relationships where respect, like love, should be a given. It should not be earned, withheld, partial, weak, or feigned.

    The second point is that we have an ability to make that happen. It can be made easier, or harder. It can even be completely squashed. Most of the time, however, we can make good on those promises to love or respect.

    As I write this, I'm thinking mostly of marriage because it encompasses both love and respect -- and because it is so difficult.

    To not apply your will to the blessing of your spouse is to refuse the foundational loyalty of love to your spouse. To not apply your emotions to the marriage is to refuse to cherish and pursue your spouse. To not apply your mind to the honor of your spouse is to refuse respect to your spouse. To not act on those things is to prove that they aren't really there.

    There are other relationships, however, that entail a dedication to love or respect besides marriages. Being in the military requires respect of superior officers that can be very diffficult. There is no oath to obey and honor parents, but it is expected nonetheless. Any of these arrangements, whether strictly a matter of authority, Biblical mandate, personal vow, any of them can be broken. It may be necessary. However, it is a very much bigger deal than most modern people care to realize. It really does require a great deal of prayer, and a great deal of wisdom. Unfortunately, wisdom is in short supply as usual. And, since it is so common to disregard the nature and importance of love and respect, it is equally common to disregard people with contempt.

    Hope that wasn't too long. :-)