Find out what it means to me
--Otis Redding, as made famous by Aretha Franklin
There are three kinds of respect.
There is the basic respect that all human beings deserve simply by virtue of being a child of God. Every person should always be treated with dignity, decency, and care. This kind of respect does not need to be earned. Unfortunately in this world of sin, this type of respect isn't often demonstrated universally, as it should be.
The second kind of respect, is the respect we pay to those in authority or those with power over us. Police officers and other representatives of government, parents, teachers, employers, among others are due this type of respect. It is the same type of respect we pay to fire, the sea, a pit bull--a respect that we withold at our own peril. Here in America, this type of respect isn't particularly popular. We bridle at the thought that we owe anybody respect by mere virtue of their position. But I think this is because we often confuse this type of respect with the third kind.
The third kind of respect is no one's birthright. It must be earned. This is the respect we bestow on those who inspire us and who we aspire to be like. We respect people who live their lives well, who demonstrate the first type of respect to all they encounter. We respect people for their character and their integrity. Or at least we should respect people for these reasons. Somtimes we conflate talent with trustworthiness, skill with goodness, beauty with grace and we offer respect to those that do not deserve it. This type of respect should be offered selectively. It may--or may not--be offered to those in authority over us. It definitely should not be doled out to every child of God.
Respect earned has proven a little tricky for me. I've found that when I have profound respect for a person, I tend to be accept with less critical thought what they have to say and think. The respect I have for them tends to put a seal of approval on all that they say, do and sometimes even to who they are related to. More than once I've found myself thinking: "Oh, she's So-and-So's sister? Then she must be amazing too!" On the other hand, I've found that with people I don't respect I'm inclined to shut them down without really hearing them. More than once I've dismissed opinions or suggestions from people I don't respect only to later realize that what they had to say was actually right on target. I'm learning that it's important to consider the message itself rather than accepting or rejecting what I hear based only on the messenger.
After all, we can always learn from others, even those we don't respect. And even our biggest heroes, are still human and prone to error from time to time.
It is my goal in life to show the appropriate type of respect to everyone I encounter and to be a person that is worthy of respect myself.
Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
1 Peter 2:17