Respect is defined as “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability” by dictionary.com.
“To respect a person is not possible without knowing him; care and responsibility would be blind if they were not guided by knowledge.” ~ Erich Fromm
“If you want to be respected by others, the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.”
~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“On a practical level respect includes taking someone’s feelings, needs, thoughts, ideas, wishes and preferences into consideration. It means taking all of these seriously and giving them worth and value. In fact, giving someone respect seems similar to valuing them and their thoughts, feelings, etc. It also includes acknowledging them, listening to them, being truthful with them, and accepting their individuality and idiosyncrasies.” S. Hein
I don’t know how to write about respect. I look for clues, about it, why do we come to respect someone, how does someone fall out of respect. What does it mean to behave respectfully, what is the role that fear plays in obedience, and what is the role that respect plays in it? Is respect always tied to submission? Or if the respect goes both ways can both sides be willing to submit to the will of the other? What must I do to get respect?
I spent the whole afternoon thinking about this, about respect, about how to write about it. I think about the significant men in my life and what respect means to me in regards to them. Men who cheat on their wives, or leave their spouses out of selfish disregard, low on the respect pole. Men who openly look at porn, less respect. Men who hide out of fear and anxiety, low low low on the respect pole. Men who abandon their children (and then blame it on the woman, no respect whatsoever). Men who will raise another woman’s child as their own, high respect, but will hit the road and never look back when the going gets tough, sinking down again. Men who treat their woman well, high respect, men who treat those weaker than them badly, including animals, low respect.
And what of women? Does a woman who has a baby out of wedlock deserve respect? What if that child turns out to be well raised, is her esteem then re-granted? What if, the woman does not value her children’s judgment, intelligence, and choices? Or her spouses? How does a woman earn her partner’s respect? How does a mother earn her children’s respect? Does a divorced woman deserve respect? (this comes from an article I read in the Huffington Post at Thanksgiving about how divorced adults are forced to sit at the children’s table during the holidays, because they are now an unmarried – GAH!) Once lost, why is it hard to regain respect? Or is it? How does a woman get the respect of her man?
You see, I find it hard to write about it because I have so many questions.
I have been rewatching Firefly the last couple days, and I think Mal is an excellent example of a fictional character who behaves respectfully (in some ways) and is respectable. It is a thing about honor, keeping your word, loyalty, and looking out for those who are in need, less fortunate, down trodden, there is also a strength, the ability to stand naked in front of those that know you, an absolute unwillingness to hide in the face of fear, the ability to return to those in your charge, a bold faced up frontedness. I say sometimes he behaves respectfully because he always calls the woman he is in love with a whore, which ultimately she is one, but it shows a great disrespect to call her this, and she lets him know so, but when a “client” grabs her arm and orders her to his side like she was his dog, Mal stands up to him, and demands that he treat Inara with respect.
So what of me, am I deserving of respect? There are those who have treated me with no respect at all. I find sometimes that the whole single parent thing is looked on as though I am not deserving of respect. We have what we call the divorced women’s club at school, and when we hold ourselves up to the long list of Catholic women at our building who are still married to their high school sweethearts, we feel as though we are not respectable, though mostly it was the men who behaved badly, far more than us. (one’s husband cheated numerous times, one’s husband is a man whom I have no respect for whatsoever for reasons I cannot go into, but trust me he doesn’t deserve it, and then me, my story told a million times. Man “doesn’t” cheat on wife, with woman he knew since he came to this country, man “doesn’t” leave her for someone else, but miraculously is in a relationship with this woman days after leaving wife, man allows the wife to suffer forever with the lies completely lacking the balls to admit his infidelity, and don’t even get me started on her stalking and bothering me, man is such a chicken he cannot ever speak to wife ever again. No no no respect.) and the fact that it still makes me angry after three years, can I ever get over it? God do I even deserve to be respected at all?
I respect myself though. I am strong, I am smart, I am creative, no I am not perfect but I try, I am kind, honest to a fault, loving, genuine, giving, have a great integrity, try to be peaceful, and green. And here I am thinking of all of my faults, maybe a little lazy at times, not generous enough, sometimes insecure, although far less so than in previous lifetimes. Creative but not much perseverance on self promotion, nor on maintaining a strong work ethic when it comes to making art, though a strong work ethic when it comes to work. I arrive on time, I do my best to be a good teacher, I don’t take a lot of sick days, I continue to learn and grow, my plan book is a disaster, and disorganized. Yes, yes, see always back to the faults. Do faults make me less deserving of respect? According to one of the quotes above, acceptance of idiosyncrasies is part of respecting a person. Are not my peculiarities of personality, my quirks, all additional definitions of idiosyncrasy? And am I not worthy of respect simply based on my honor, integrity and fortitude? Without regard to say talking in my sleep, or belching, or unwillingness to dress like the way someone else thinks I should?
And what of the pirate? Speaking of idiosyncrasies, of which he has many. But respect, long in coming, built nacre layer on nacre layer, on the grit of who he is, respect is there. The more I see, the more respect I have, and here it is, for me laid out bare, like naked Mal, right in my face, bold and unafraid, more than I have ever had for any man. Ever. Yes more than my father, because there was fear mixed in there, and more than my Grandfather, who though a respectable man, did not actually earn respect from me, over time, it was just there by the time I became aware, and he carried it. That’s it. It was just there. And here I am face to face with my pirate, and I find myself noticing that the respect is there. it is like a smooth stone that I have just discovered in the pocket of my jeans, I reach in and find myself touching it, and turning it over, and trying to get a feel for it. And suddenly I think, I am too, deserving of his respect. And I find myself expecting it, not in a bossy way, but in the way of my actions, of making it clear when I don’t feel respected, and his honest and forthright response, engendering even more respect from me. It is a cycle, now self powered, the more I respect him, the more I feel I deserve, the more I expect it, the more he gives it, the more he warrants mine.
I like this. It is working for me.
But I still have to think about it more.
It is a challenging thing to ponder, particularly in this world, where respect, and respectability is so rare.