This is a question which has been consistently debated over time. Often it is by students trying to explain why they can misbehave in front of teachers they dislike or by people refusing to succumb to authority by people in power. This is an important question to consider as respect is such an essential concept within society and forms the basis of all communications. So, is respect earned or given?

There are many different opinions online regarding this question, however; there is one arguably indisputable point. Respect in its barest and most simple form must be given. All people deserve respect, in conversation and action, respect should be given to all people regardless of any prior tension or disagreement. Albert Einstein referred to this concept by stating, “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university”. Giving respect is the foundation for personal and professional relationships, therefore, initially, it must be provided.

However, there are different layers of respect, and this is demonstrated clearest through an example:

If you think back to your days in school, there would have been some teachers that you had a better relationship with than others. Hopefully, for all teachers, you gave them the respect which they deserved, but for some teachers who you highly valued and had a good relationship with, you would respect them and their decisions more. This is where the different layers of respect are revealed.

These second and third layers of respect are given because of the relationship that you have with that person. In these cases, an argument can be made that a higher level of respect is achieved through positive communication and a healthy relationship. I would find it hard to believe that you respect every person that you meet equally. Although you may aim to give everyone equal respect, there are always people who you respect more due to specific circumstances.

Nevertheless, the foundation of all human interaction is respect, and that should be given to all people. Even if you disagree with someone, you can enter a discussion in a manner that demonstrates politeness and consideration, sharing your ideas wholly and honestly, allowing for respect from both sides.

Respect should always be given. However, more profound levels of respect and of a relationship can be earned through positive interaction. Personally, I don’t like the use of the words ‘given’ and ‘earned’. I think respect is given and then respect grows, it cultivates, it expands, it is never earned, but it takes a different form, and that leads to a deeper relationship between two people.

4 thoughts on “Is Respect Earned or Given?

  1. I respect your perspective on the issue of respect. And you’re right about it. Respect should always be given and later on, built upon. There’s this saying ‘first I’ll treat you like I would want to be treated. Then I’ll treat you like you treat me’. Most times, people use this saying when they are being disrespected or taken for granted.

    Respect is very important here in Nigeria. The grownups take it as important as their self esteem. Lol
    It’s like saying respect determines self esteem. When you’re not being respected, you check yourself.
    Maybe it’s just a human thing. ✌🏿

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very interesting, thank you for sharing! I think the concept of respect being built upon gets easily lost in this conversation because people focus solely on the given/earned argument. Yes, respect should be given to all people but we are being ignorant by not admitting that there are different levels.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, I agree for I always respect anyone I meet as a fellow person. However, for me when I spoke of “earned”, I thought directly of situations in my life. I respected the role my parents had as my parents, but I never respected them as such for they were extremely physically abusive; leaving scars on my body and my heart. That was “dittoed” when I married. I respected the role my husband of 44 yrs. had as my mate, but I didn’t respect him as my husband for during the marriage he was abusive and then ultimately betrayed me by beginning an affair while I was his wife. Thus my rationale in using the term “earned.”

    Liked by 1 person

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