How Do You Define Respect?

Quote of the Day

“Men are respectable
only as they respect”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

My young friend Tony and I were having a discussion the other day. In my know-it-all behavior I was lecturing him on respect. I was explaining to him that at times he displayed a disrespectful attitude. With a perplexed look on his face he looked and me and exclaimed, “Maybe we both have different definitions on respect.” Now I was perplexed, no one had ever made me think of that before. He made a valid point, respect is a broad term and each individual will have his or her own definition.

I decided to look up respect in the dictionary;

respect: To hold in high regard; esteem, to show honor; courtesy; consideration; a relation or reference to a particular thing or situation.

As you can see this definition is pretty broad. What I may see as honor or esteem, you may see entirely differently. So I think the first step in respect is understanding that we are all different, that in and of itself is respect.

I also believe that respect is not a given, rather it is earned. I will show you respect if you are an elder, policeman, doctor, etc… However, for you to gain and keep my respect as a person, you will have to earn it.

For most the meaning of respect is to treat others the way you want them to treat you. I like to look at it another way, do not treat others in a way that you would not want to be treated.

I can cuss like a sailor, (No disrespect towards Sailors) I have often wondered why so many find these words offensive. However, I do respect that there are those who do and I refrain from cussing their presence.

So what is your definition of respect? I would love to read some of your ideas.


How Do You Define Respect? — 14 Comments

  1. To hold in regard,esteem, honor etc as defined by the dictionary to me means there are traits,qualities, lifestyle maybe an energy that I regard and respect. I believe it is individually value based. So what one “suppose to respect may not in fact receive respect.

    I will surrender courtesy and respect my boundaries first and foremost.

  2. Hi there
    I just ran across your article and I wish there were more comments to read on this cause the reason I was looking up the meaning of respect was that my boyfriend and i have been having a heated arguement about this very subject.
    We to both think we have two differant thoughts on just what the meaning is to respect.
    I think its about what everyone of your comments have mentioned. I believe its treating people right and not treating people that love and care for you like your their last rest stop on the hwy. About not lying to people and not trying to make the other person feel like everything is their fault, when it clearly isnt ALL anyones fault. Its not letting the other person speak. Its smiles amd hugs. Its not making some walk in the rain when they have a vehicle and can drive you. Its true caring.
    Sorry to go on but respect just involes so much more than just words, it is also feelings.

  3. Respect in action or words has no power as compared to feeling good for someone that is real respect. No profession, no big shots, being healthier, wealthier can achieve full respect from everyone but we all respect from the core of our heart to every good human being. To me, all of us need to be a good human being as we cannot purchase respect or else we cannot make anyone to respect us.

  4. I firmly believe that courtesy should be freely given but respect should be earned. Respect is defined as a feeling of deep admiration due to abilities and influence. Since admiration is a feeling, one cannot command another to respect (or command them not to disrect) any more than you can command someone who to fall in (or out) of love with. Respect is a tribute, disrespect is a symptom of a bigger problem. I think too many people confuse respect with obedience (“You need to ‘obey’ me” as opposed to “You need to ‘respect’ me”). Respect, courtesy and obedience are all related, but they have entirely seperate meanings. Respect is a feeling, like love or joy.

    • @ Brain, Some great insight there. I especially like; “I think too many people confuse respect with obedience.” It’s kinda like I always wondered about politics and religion… Do you really believe what you believe, or do you believe what you’ve been taught to believe?

      “Respect is a feeling, like love or joy.”
      Interesting… I like that perspective, and I suppose I will agree.

  5. I agree with you, and thank you for allowing your friend to share his view with you and you sharing with others. I would also like to learn Tony’s definition. I believe, and try to teach others, to ALWAYS SHOW respect to everyone, even when you do not know them. Allow them the opportunity to EARN your full respect, or give you a reason to disrespect them. You then can decide how you, yourself is going to deal with your new knowledge.

    I believe that if you show respect or someone has earned your respect, you will not lie too, cheat on, steal from, be destructive towards them, their beliefs, their knowledge, their art, their culture, their family, their pride, their situation, their property and space. Honor the leasons that can be learned from everyone! You don’t have to agree 100% with anyone, but allow each other the opportunity to teach/translate their definition and how, what and why we believe what we do. Sometimes it doesn’t take long at all.

  6. Pingback: Thought for the Day 06-16-09 | Thought for the Day

  7. I help kids paint murals about respect. I ask them, “What does Respect look like to you?” I love their answers. Giving someone what they need. Listening when someone is talking to you. Smiling. Offering to help. Doing what someone asks you to do. I write down their answers so that when I ask them, “Do you respect yourselves?” they can begin to apply their answers from a more personal point of view.

    • Thank you very much for sharing your story. I am truly touched. I paid your site a visit and It is wonderful the things you do. Certainly your part of the world, and beyond is a better place because of you. Keep up the good work. Anyone else who might read this do yourself a favor and visit Joan’s site It will put a smile on your face and touch your heart. -Charley

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