It’s one of those words that can be used loosely but perhaps should be thought of in several dimensions.
1. There’s a baseline respect (let’s call it small-r respect) that we each owe to one another as human beings. By virtue of being co-equal as a person made in the image of God, you have inherent value. I owe you the consideration of being treated, at bare minimum, as I would wish to be treated.
2. There’s a Respect that is derived from/given for a position of authority (let’s call it capital-R Respect). Parents are owed this respect, as are teachers, police officers, employers, and higher-ranking officers. Those occupying these positions may not be exemplary in many areas of their lives, but they are due a level of respect nonetheless.
3. Then there is earned RESPECT. This is respect that is derived from what a person becomes. For instance,
– the RESPECT we feel for someone who cultivates their abilities to achieve excellence (e.g., an Olympic gymnast, or a successful entrepreneur)
– the RESPECT we feel for someone who accomplishes notable things (e.g., Audie Murphy, or the Apollo 13 crew)
– the RESPECT we feel for someone who has cultivated a strong and virtuous character (e.g., Mother Theresa, or George Washington)
When a person is consistently, over the long haul, growing in character, ability, and attainment, that’s when we feel respect swelling in our hearts. When someone whom we have respected at multiple levels (like Tiger Woods) falls hard, it is very disheartening. We want – we need – heroes.
What happens when people jettison baseline respect for others? Tyranny. Slavery. Abortion. Murder.
What happens when people and citizens put aside Respect for authority? Disorder. Rebellion. Crime. Anarchy.
What happens when we have no-one to RESPECT? Dissolution. Sloppiness. Lack of vision. Mediocrity.
We’ll never have everybody’s affection, or agreement. Far better to have respect, exercise Respect, and earn RESPECT.
At least, that’s how I see from here. What do you think?