Abuse, Bad Ideas, Community, Ethics, Fairness, Morality, Obligations to Society, Society, Values

Should You Respect Everyone?

(About a 3 minute read)

Should we respect everyone?

I’ve been thinking about that fascinating question for the past few minutes, and it seems strange to me how fast my opinion is coming together on the issue.  But isn’t that most likely because I’m not actually thinking about the question as I am merely recalling to mind my already existing opinions about respecting everyone?

I cannot take proper credit for raising the question, though.  That credit belongs to Sindhuja Mandohar who posed it in a conversation with Matthias on his blog this morning.  Sindhuja stated:

I know I have often wondered if people who hurt and intentionally cause harm to others deserve the same level of respect that I would give to the average person, and crazily enough, I seem to have come to the conclusion that I would still maintain respect towards them – because I truly believe everybody is worthy of respect – but that doesn’t mean I would agree/support/encourage their negative behaviors/acts.

Which brings me to want to modify the question some little bit.  Instead of asking “Should we respect everyone?”, perhaps it would be more instructive to ask, “Should we fully respect everyone?”, with the proviso that respect does not necessarily mean we are prepared to agree, support, or encourage anyone.

My reason for adding “fully” here is that in the past I’ve seen people tediously specify in detail that, say, they’d give a murderer only half or a tenth of the respect that they’d give anyone else, and so forth.  I hope to head that sort of comment off.

So, should we fully respect everyone?  Sindhuga seems  to think so, Matthias doesn’t seem have a clear opinion on it, and I’m going to say, “yes”.  Yes, even if were dealing with the most heinous person in history, I believe we should fully respect them — minus agreeing with, supporting, or encouraging them.

But why?

Of course, some people are bound to disagree with me.  That’s fine.  I’m not looking for a debate, but merely to explain my views.  And my view is there are at least two closely related reasons for fully respecting everyone.

The first is that it humanizes people.  By definition you cannot genuinely respect someone who you have dehumanized, and respect is a powerful ward against that.  In theory, respect would put  an end to everything from middle-school students abusing each other to genocides.  You can’t get a much more powerful reason we should respect people than that.

Now against respecting people, I heard folks offer — first — that it’s unfair or unjust to respect someone who doesn’t respect you, or that it’s unfair or unjust to respect someone who had done something heinous or despicable.

Yet if one adopts that view, then it seems to me, one might be screw themselves.  For support everyone were to quit respecting everyone else?  Would not that open the door to all manner of atrocities?  And couldn’t some of those atrocities hit home with people who believe in withholding respect for any reason?

At any rate, those are my thoughts for the moment on the issue of whether we should fully respect everyone. I hope you’ve had fun reading this.

16 thoughts on “Should You Respect Everyone?”

  1. Now you made me think about it even further and concerning your question I think that walking away from a confrontation, hence bringing a deescalation to a potentially destructive situation is also a matter of respect. For my own boundaries and the boundaries of the other party. Thanks for this post and glad that we could spark it. 🙂

    About the dehumanization part. I don’t wanna open up that can of worms but if we are talking about respect, we should start from the smallest beings. Meaning that this topic is clearly anthropocentric which is alright for the sake of the topic, but per se erasing animals and plants (not to forget fungi and microorganisms). Although I strongly believe these should be included in a debate about respect it seems that they are not able to respect us vice versa, BUT if we agree that respect is something we should grant under any circumstance, this should not matter at all.

    I hope I didn’t digress to far…

    Liked by 5 people

    1. It’s interesting to think of respect for humans as in some way entwined with respect for all life and nature. Of course we should have respect for our life — which includes everything. It’s just that we don’t think “Respect Jones, and lichen too”. Very good point though.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s interesting that we have sparked such a big discussion on the concept of respect, but I’m glad we did – because I believe the cornerstone of our human species is knowing how to live together respectfully.

    In my opinion, respecting someone does not require you to respect their choices, behaviors, and/or actions. Respecting someone does not mean you have to agree with their opinions, support them in their decisions, or encourage them for their acts. Respecting someone simply is humanizing them (as you and Matthias have aptly explained). It’s understanding that they are beings, just like you, and they deserve to be treated respectfully. But, having said that, I don’t think treating someone respectfully is the same as respecting them as a person. My treatment of people, regardless of who they are, is the same, but the respect I personally hold for them will differ from person to person.

    You said “respect would put an end to everything from middle-school students abusing each other to genocides” — and I can’t agree more. What an important point to highlight!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. “the cornerstone of our human species is knowing how to live together respectfully.” You could easily be right about that. Respect, more than anything else, may be what it takes — or would take — to live together.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I tend toward the viewpoint expressed here by Lunarpoet, in that I would say I respect Life in all its forms. Period. But actions require a respect that is earned. If your actions are destructive, rather than Life-affirming, (whether you be human evil-doer or cancer cell), then your ACTIONS will earn no respect from me…

    But none of that takes into account the connotative implications where “respect” leans closer to “fear” than “esteem”. All the more reason to use the full breadth of our vocabulary, to better communicate what we mean… ;D

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  4. My thoughts are clearly less simple and more compartmentalised than the illustrious comments from your other readers. to me respect means admiration, do i admire someone for who they are or what they do? clearly actions speak loud and have the ability to hurt or heal. while i would respect a person as a human i don’t think i can respect his/her actions if they intentionally hurt another living thing. if i keep those precepts i find my heart can forgive even when my head cannot. hope this makes sense. i thank you for bringing this up, you are right not everyone will agree, but in our differences that’s where we give the most respect by letting another person be heard. thank you Paul

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  5. “But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Lk 6:27

    Is Love the same as Respect?

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    1. Honestly, I don’t think so. I would say, depending on what kind of love is meant there (e.g. philos, agape?), respect might be either compatible or incompatible with it. But of course, I could be wrong about that, Carla. Any ideas?

      Oh, I think Jesus was right — love is more important than other things — including respect.

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  6. What an interesting question and thread of commentary. I think if we draw away from respecting another due to what they say, do or believe, it puts me slap bang in the same boat with them. Respect is not earned. It simply is – respect for ALL sentient beings. It does not, however, equate to approval or love. They are a very different ‘kettle of fish’ – the slipperiness of semantics can get sticky!

    Liked by 2 people

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