Who Do You Respect?
By Art Ramsay, Ph.D.

 Respect is esteem for, or a sense of the worth or excellence of, a person, a personal quality, ability, or a manifestation of a personal quality or ability. So says most dictionaries; but it goes far deeper than that. Respect is one of those words that can take on various meanings depending on its use both in speech and perception.

 When I was young, I was taught to “respect your elders”, and your parents, while in the Army to respect the flag, the Presidency, and rank of individuals regardless of character. But no one taught me about self-respect. I learned later that “respect must be earned” according to some authority figures. If this were the case how could I respect a uniform, or rank, or even the Presidency, if I could not respect the individual holding that high office?

 What does it mean “respect must be earned”? For me, someone has my respect if he/she acts with integrity. But a bully might earn someone’s ‘respect’ if they don’t want to get beaten repeatedly. I have heard people say when coming across some tall, muscular person: “he’s got my respect”. What does “respect must be earned” mean to you?

 See where this is going? The word ‘respect’ is batted around in many ways and means different things to many people. What does it mean to you? Who do you respect, and why? Who has ‘earned’ your respect lately?

 Like acceptance and love, respect must begin with respecting yourself. Just as we cannot honestly accept or love another person, until we accept and love ourselves, we cannot respect another without respect for ourselves. Do we have to ‘earn’ our own respect? If so, how do we do that?

 The first thing to recognize is that what other people think of you is irrelevant to what you think of yourself. However that doesn’t seem to be the how it works from my experience with people I have worked with, family, and friends. Most of us seem to establish low self-esteem early in life due to pressure from parents, religion, and school that we are not good enough to be and do what we aspire to. So how can we admire and respect ourselves when other people who we think are authorities in our lives don’t?

 Having the knowledge that you are more than what society says you are, or can be, knowing that you are more than the human body everyone sees, and acknowledging that that there is something within you greater then anyone can imagine, moves you into unlimited possibilities and potential. When this happens you are easily able to have respect for yourself.

 I know that what I wrote above seems like a big chunk of shifting beliefs and perceptions, and it is. But it is absolutely necessary if you are ever going to honestly have respect for yourself (and others who have ‘earned’ your respect). That said let’s get back to the original topic – respect (for others).

 I mentioned that someone has my respect when that person shows that she/he has integrity. How do I know that integrity is present with the individual? Well it isn’t something you can spot instantly, so it takes time. I am not speaking of ‘trust’ here, which you might want to access when first meeting someone, but how someone lives her life.

 When people “walk their talk”, when what they say and do are in alignment, when they keep their promises consistently, are signs that someone lives with integrity. This is a person I respect. What criteria do you have to determine whether you will respect someone or not?

 There is another word often used for respect that has a totally different meaning to me – admire. While the Free Dictionary  uses the word ‘respect’ in one of its meanings, (1. To regard with pleasure, wonder, and approval. 2. To have a high opinion of; esteem or respect.)  I see ‘admire’ used more with the first meaning. To me, while ‘admire’ can certainly be used in place of ‘respect’, it lacks depth.

 The depth of a person’s character reveals those attributes we might look for in someone we respect, or not respect. I often feel that many entertainers show a shallow character with how they live their lives off stage. What kind of character do you show publicly? So many people wear ‘masks’ and pretend to be somebody they aren’t. I wonder where the phase “I get no respect” from Rodney Dangerfield originated?

 Returning to what I believe is the most important aspect of respect, self-respect, I suggest that you journal about your own character. That is, how you see yourself privately and publicly. Do you wear masks depending where you are or who you are with? Are you the same person 24/7 no matter what?

 It is only when you align what you think, say, and do consistently that you gain the self-respect needed to love and accept yourself as the powerful, loving person you truly are. Spend some time with this subject and see where it leads you. Learning how we feel about ourselves on a day to day basis give us the first step in exploring our inner selves.


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