She was sitting on a bench with her brother. Her body language was closed, tight, tense, she just wasn't listening to him. His voice was soft and gentle and inviting.
Then she said, "No! He disrespected me, so I disrespected him!" Period. End of story.
That began a long conversation with the brother trying to calmly get her to see another point of view, and trying to get her to think about - and reconsider her actions.
No one really knows how that story - one of thousands like it, turned out.
But was it just a one-time verbal slight? Did she over-react? Was she too emotional? Or was she correct in treating others as they had treated her?
One of the most valuable traits we have today, is to have respect of others and for others. Even people who truly disagree on a topic will say, "Well, we agree to disagree." They accept differences in opinion without personalizing it and making it a case of disrespect.
Civilization needs respect. Parents need respect. Law Enforcement needs respect. Teachers need respect. Culture needs respect. Employers need respect. Community, family, religion, society all need respect. Above all, YOU need respect.
We want others to treat us with respect, and we dislike it when others show us disrespect.
As an aside, however, sometimes we use the word "respect" in the wrong context. Respect really means you have an admiration - a high esteem - for someone based upon their accomplishments. You hold them in high regard, almost in honor. This type of respect, though, is really reserved for a "chosen few."
In day-to-day terms, respect is given to anyone based upon qualities or characteristics we cherish or find valuable ourselves. It is a feeling that someone is important, or serious, or that deserves our courtesy. Therein is the humanistic belief that everyone is important - that everyone deserves our respect.
In this regard, then, everyone deserves our respect simply because they are human - are our brothers and sisters. Respect is not something to be given or withheld, not to be awarded or vindictively withdrawn because of a slight, an argument, a disagreement, or a perceived wrong.
Everyone deserves a baseline of respect, of common decency.
Disrespect though is different. It is not just the opposite of respect. It is a conscious showing of a lack or courtesy… it is being impolite. It is a manner of behavior that could be interpreted as offensive, as contempt, scorn, even insulting. One example may be a particular teacher that you think is too hard on test grades. You may not give that teacher the greatest of respect for whichever reason, but you most certainly would not show disrespect.
So, respect and disrespect are on the opposite sides of the spectrum. And while people often show different levels of respect, it clearly should not cross that line into showing disrespect…. That is the difference between maturity and immaturity, between civilization and anarchy.
It often happens, by the way, that we do not show others the degree of respect that perhaps we ought… that they deserve. More often than not it just happens because we weren’t thinking. When it does happen - or when we realize it - perhaps the best thing to say is "I'm sorry, I meant no disrespect."
Respect is not a condition of how you think others are treating you… it is a function of character… of how you treat others!