I had a bit of an existential crisis while writing this post, and poured my heart into something you guys will never read. Halfway through writing about "respect", I made the shocking discovery that I had no friggin clue what I was talking about OR believed. To give you a little insight into what the cause of all this trouble was, I was caught up over the word "deserve". More specifically, do people really deserve respect? This was causing issues for me because, well, yes, people deserve respect. But also, no, people don't deserve respect. To be perfectly honest, I still have no idea what I'm talking about, but I think I'll figure it out sometime during writing this. So let's start this roller-coaster going nowhere fast!
To begin, I do think people deserve respect. Perhaps the better way to put it is that people deserve to be respected. Meaning, when we approach new people, cultures, or ideologies, I think everyone and everything deserves a chance to be understood, asked about, and to be the subject of curiosity. Keeping with the times, I think a common factor between many social issues these days lies in the act of generalization. I mean, there are 7 billion people on this planet -- it's bound to happen. But when we generalize and group people into their respective categories, we are choosing to ignore individuality. Respect is, in this situation, recognizing that we may not understand everything about another culture, or as is much more prevalent today, another religion.
Maybe it's just me, but I firmly believe that most everybody I meet for the first time deserves respect, that is, the benefit of the doubt. Yes, I think knowing certain things about them before meeting them will inevitable draw attention towards some stereotypes, but I'd like to think recognition of stereotypes is the first step towards alleviating their effects. We, myself included, should always be curious and open-minded towards new ideas and new people. In the same way, we can only hope others approach us with the same intentions. In both cases, I think it goes without saying that you, as the giver of respect, must set aside your preconceived notions of others; they, as the recipient of respect, must set aside their own ego in order to truly appreciate the respect they are given, which is a gift. Which leads me to my next point.
No, you don't deserve respect. It is not something that comes with your job title, nor is it something that is given to you when you achieve something great. The government does not mail you a box of respect every time you accomplish something. Rather, respect is earned and should be treated as such.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone acts as if they are deserving of the respect they get -- or, more often, that they don't get. Something in me wants to say to them, "Don't you get it? There's a reason why people don't respect you, and it's probably not that they were raised without knowing how to respect authority. It's probably you." But saying that publicly would probably get me fired and, in a moment of weakness, I have to admit that I like money.
Basically, if you think for one second that you deserve respect, get off your high horse. To reiterate a concept that has probably been pounded into your head at some point between kindergarten and now, respect is something that you receive, willingly, from others. It really becomes an issue of ego. The moment you believe that you deserve someone else's respect, you begin to see them differently. Suddenly, you might feel like they owe you something. Which they don't. They really, really don't.
Respect is tricky because it really can go both ways quite easily. I like to think of it as a gift. It's not a birthday present or a Christmas present -- you shouldn't go about life expecting it to come to you (tip: please don't be one of those people that gets angry when you don't get a birthday or Christmas present. It's unpleasant.). Instead, it should be more like a... a summer solstice gift -- you don't expect it at all, but the occasion happens anyway. I mean, just imagine someone going up to you, saying, "Happy summer solstice!", and handing you a neatly wrapped present. It's weird, but you would most likely feel very grateful. OK, my analogy game isn't strong at the moment, so this is the best I could do.
And unfortunately for everyone reading this, I'm going to try to salvage said analogy. So, gifts. As you go through life, assuming you're someone who is normally a pretty nice person, accepting, humble, compassionate, etc., you deserve to be handed gifts at any time, but you shouldn't expect them all the time. You deserve to be respected, but you don't deserve respect. At the end of the day, I guess what it boils down to is your mindset. Is respect something you are trying to achieve, as if it's a prize? Or are you just trying to basically be a good person? Is respect your goal, or is it the cherry on top?