General Question

whiteliondreams's avatar

Can you define respect in your own words?

Asked by whiteliondreams (1693 points ) August 6th, 2012

We all hear this and probably even reiterate it’s connotation and implications, but never really care to find out why.

Respect is earned, not given.

Define respect as per the dictionary and then explain why you think admiration requires approval because if you have respect, the you have “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements” -dictionary.

How does one’s admiration of someone or something require merit or justification in itself when it is something that you are esteeming or approving for your self?

I also see why people are tired of answering meta-ethical questions; it’s so demanding and time consuming

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19 Answers

_Whitetigress's avatar

Having admiration for someone in a non barbaric manner.

gailcalled's avatar

“I also see why people are tired of answering meta-ethical questions; it’s so demanding and time consuming.”

The reason that people keep re-asking them is because they are hard to answer.

fremen_warrior's avatar

(@whiteliondreams it IS demanding and time consuming, but very interesting and entertaining at that, so thanks for asking them!)

To me respect means that the person behaves in accordance with, and/or exceeding my own standards of behaviour. Having respect for said person means I will have their back if someone tries to accuse them of not living up to those standards. It is a validation of the person’s mindset/actions and thus an enticement to keep on trucking being excellent the way they are.

As for the adage, it’s simple really, you cannot take someone’s word for being worthy of respect. Proof is needed in order for you to feel secure in validating that person thus. Once that person delivers, respect may enter the picture. It is not just admiration, but social validation, and both parties are interested in being both respected and being surrounded by people whom they can respect, for that reason exactly – they know what they are doing is socially acceptable, and they know others play by more or less the same rules, which makes them this much more predictable i.e. safer to be around.

whiteliondreams's avatar

@fremen_warrior I’ll give you an example. Say that I am having a discussion with @gailcalled and we’re talking about how my grammar is many a times, contentious. While you may respect my contentious virtue (oh yes, that is a virtue to me: a great good), she may infer that I am irresponsible and undeserving of her respect. If I change my virtue, will you not lose respect for me? Whereas, she may then respect me? Is this what is called upon as justifying merit? I’m curious. Why must it be earned and not simply granted based on its definition? You respect me because I am provocative, which means it is a characteristic trait you admire; whereas, I do not have to justify myself to you in order for you to respect my trait. It is simply something you inherently and intrinsically esteem. No?

Mariah's avatar

I am probably technically incorrect, but respect has two distinct levels in my mind.

In one form, respect is a basic human courtesy that all people should be granted. I respect your innate worth as a human being, whether I like you or not. I respect your right to go about your life uninhibited by my actions. I ask that you extend the same respect to me.

In another form, it can describe admiration. I have great respect for Lisa Randall as a brilliant scientist, respect for the bravery of soldiers, etc.

gailcalled's avatar

@whiteliondreams: No, no, no, chére. That is a terrible example. I respect you whatever your grammar may be and however contentious you are.

whiteliondreams's avatar

@gailcalled Sorry, it was just an example. Thank you. :)

@Mariah I concur, but the fact to the matter is, we are changing the initial definition and personifying it to the level that it would apply to everyone, when it doesn’t. Respect belongs to you from me, not the other way around. I don’t earn your respect based on what you admire about me. You either respect me or you don’t. I don’t require any prerequisites on your part for applying to your sense of approval. I mean this as respectively as possible by the way lol

fremen_warrior's avatar

@whiteliondreams I am not really sure what you mean by virtue in this respect (I’m Polish so some aspects of English might elude me from time to time). My point was basically that as social animals we agree to live by certain (unspoken) rules. For te most part being able to live within those boundaries earns you a “society will not persecute you” ticket. Hence the term “respected member of the community” – you really need to prove yourself to be called that.

There’s also the personal level of respect which, besides the social standards part, stems mostly out of personal preferences, dreams, desires etc. that one might hold. This kind of respect is a lot like lurve – you give it where you think someone is like you; like someone you’d like to be, but can’t; or generally “does not clash with the drapes” of your worldview too much.

Finally there’s the – shall we say – ‘spiritual’ kind of respect, where you respect another sentient being just because it is.

Now, depending on which type we’re talking about, there will be different ways of obtaining respect:

1) takes time and proof;
2) takes less time and relies mostly on personal preference, and
3) is instantaneous but depends largely on the level of personal enlightenment of the respecter (as opposed to the respectee), and paradoxically is IMO the hardest kind of respect to obtain.

_Whitetigress's avatar


I can respect certain attributes of human beings in certain situations and not respect them in other areas. For instance, I respect Kevin Garnett as a person. But I don’t respect him as a player on the court.

whiteliondreams's avatar

@fremen_warrior That is my point, no matter how you want to point it, it seems as though the person being respect requires preapproval, which is not the case. I repeat, respect is not earned, respect is attained by the respector not the respectee. You respect me for such and such because you admire such and such or because I am or do such and such. I do not do anything to impress you, otherwise it’s an impression and it requires work on my behalf to introduce my character or values upon you.

In another token, proving yourself is not a requirement for respect, “proving” oneself is for social acceptance. There is no other way around it. Respect is an emotion, proving is the act of demonstration; respect isn’t an act in itself, it’s a sentiment towards an individual for their qualities, abilities, etc.

fremen_warrior's avatar

@whiteliondreams true, however more often than not someone cannot respect you if they don’t know you. Since I’m currently mostly following this thread let’s consider this situation: someone walks in either dressed very “strangely” or behaving rather unusual – do you think most people immediately feel respect for them?

Naturally you don’t have to prove anything, but then again people won’t respect you if you don’t give them a chance to get to know you (unless they fear you). In this sense it’s earned. Other people’s respect for you is earned by you being worthy of respect when they can notice it (the old “if a tree falls in a forest and nobody’s there” problem). You don’t own that respect, what you earn is that sentiment that people have towards you.

It’s like proving you can be trusted with a loan, based on your credit history (minus the interest).

athenasgriffin's avatar

I believe that @Mariah hit the nail on the head with separating it into superficial respect given to everyone and the deeper respect that is earned.

Really they should be two separate words.

I believe that integral parts are lost when you try to oversimplify a concept such as respect into a definition that applies to all situations. I know that many philosophers and scientists believe that the most simple explanation is inherently the most correct one, but I am very much opposed to this sort of thinking.

rojo's avatar

@Mariah I must disagree with your contention that respect is a basic form of human courtesy. I believe the two concepts can, and should be, mutually exclusive. I try to be courteous to all, not out of respect, because I many times have no idea whether or not a person is worthy of respect, but because I feel we are all entitled to a little civility.
There are those whom I detest that I am still courteous to because this is what I think is right, not because they are worthy. I do not “respect” someone because they have reached a ripe old age; that is simple biology. I do not “respect” someone because they have been elected President; money cannot buy my respect. I do not “respect” someone because he or she is a soldier; I too have a roll in society. I respect someone because they have done something that I consider to be outstanding or beneficial to society; something that goes above and beyond; that which can be considered an exemplary when it comes to beliefs, attitudes, emotions, motives, and conduct.
You cannot order me to respect you; if you attempt to I can guarantee that you will never receive my respect . Although, I will certainly try to do my best to politely tell you to GFY.

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Mariah's avatar

Okay, that’s fine. It’s my world view, doesn’t have to be yours.

Bill1939's avatar

One cannot have respect for an individual that they do not know. One can, howerer, respect the role that the situtation casts another into, as well as their situation. One can respect the quality of work done, while having no respect for the person who did it (Richard Wagner comes to mind).

@rojo said, “I try to be courteous to all, not out of respect, because I many times have no idea whether or not a person is worthy of respect, but because I feel we are all entitled to a little civility.” Isn’t it hubris to judge worthiness? Isn’t all life worth respect? Civility is what comes into play when one is disguising their disgust for the unworthy. However, honest civility arises from respect.

whiteliondreams's avatar

and so continues the feud of differences and perceptions of whether our differences should be regarded as opinionated or integral. This is the point of my discussions, to prove that human differences and the inability to come to a logical conclusion is impossible because humans value individuality more than reason. Therefore, there has to be another way of approaching our differences through our similarities and justified methods of the way humans learn. There has to be something to figure in regards to understanding human action and thoughts. I am almost certain it has to do with our innate desires, fulfilling moral and immoral goals, expressing our true nature, but all restricted and limited to conditions or circumstances that further hide these wishes from light because of their potential atrocities, inhumanity, disgust, and misfortune. If humans cannot be true to their selves, then they can be no truer to anyone else. Thank you all for participating. Much obliged.

mattbrowne's avatar

The ability to keep an open mind when confronted with different opinions or lifestyles.

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