Respect - earned or lost?
I overheard someone talking the other day and they said: "if you want my respect, you gotta earn it." I thought... hmm, if you look at life that way, like everyone has to earn your respect, then I think that you have a problem because it basically means you go through life not respecting anyone. It seems to be a recipe for inevitable conflict and negativity.
Myself, I'm of the opposite school of thought about respect. I think respect is not something to be earned, but something to be lost. What I mean is, I respect everyone until they give me a reason not to. Most of our life is spent in public among people we don't know, and I choose to treat everyone in a polite, fair, and respectful manner. My observation of this approach is that people also treat me the same way. It's a peaceful quid pro quo and I believe that is what most people want. I also think that treating others with respect is a sign of high intelligence.
When I see people who treat other people in a disrespectful way, through bullying, inciting conflict, belittling, being condescending, discriminating, etc, then I immediately lose respect for such people. I think those who engage in that type of behavior are somehow broken. Certainly, they would not have a high level of enjoyment or happiness, would they?
Perhaps such personality types trace back to poor parenting and guidance? When I look at my upbringing, I can say without a doubt that my parents did not do a good job and failed in many ways. In fact, I lost respect for my parents due to their behaviors and what I really learned, was to not be like them.
Don't get me wrong. I loved them and they loved us, but that's not enough. They completely failed as parents to provide direction and advice in the best interest of myself and siblings. We were allowed to do drugs and drink and drop out of school and do what we want without consequences. Family life growing up was very dysfunctional and full of arguments, infidelity, and anger. Fortunately, I was smart enough as a young man to get out and decide I was not going to be like my parents. I smartened up and set out on a path to define my own success. But not everyone has that foresight to overcome such an upbringing and I know my siblings suffered because of it.
I digress though because regardless of the reasons that one would choose to demand that people earn their respect, I think that it's worth the effort on everyone's part to try and just respect everyone by default, and see how that works out. Be nice and friendly and talk to strangers, smile at people, let people change lanes, do random acts of kindness, and try to get along. It's a much more rewarding way to live.