I’m a big advocate for respecting all people all of the time. As such, I am often talking about respect and posting to social media about it. The other day I had someone come back at me with, “Respect must be earned. I don’t believe that we should respect anyone ‘just because.'” It wasn’t the first time I had heard this. Since becoming an advocate for respecting all people I have heard that criticism in some form multiple times. And I believe it’s a fair criticism. To be completely honest, I also don’t believe we should respect anyone “just because.”
Still, I believe we should respect all people. All of the time. And I believe we should do it for several reasons. Here are my top three…
First and foremost, I believe that respect is something we all desire. No matter who we are or what our station in life might be, we all long to be respected. Why? I think it has to do with one of our most basic needs – the need to believe that we have the right to exist; that we have inherent worth. And I believe that all people truly do have inherent worth. We all have value. Life is precious and simply by being alive we matter. And for that reason we deserve respect.
Second, I believe that being respectful towards everyone helps to create a more civil society. Think about it. When we treat people respectfully we treat them with some dignity. We do not scorn them or scream at them. We speak to them. We reason with them. Respect matters. And it matters because respecting everyone helps to create a society where we treat one another as equals. By respecting others we are saying to them, “You matter enough to me for me to give you my attention, my patience, and my words in a kind and articulate way.” Respect matters, because it helps to build the kind of world we want to live in.
Finally, giving everyone at least some basic level of respect helps to preserve the sanctity of life. In order for me to remain confident that I want to treat all people with respect, all I need to do is reflect upon what a world without respect looks like. Lack of respect leads to negative human interactions such as prejudice, sexism, racism, and more. Disrespect on a large enough scale can be seen to contribute to horrors like genocide and racial cleansing. During the 20th century, eugenics took root from a disrespect for certain types of human beings. Disrespect is destructive. Respect must be maintained in order for the sanctity of life to be maintained.
So there it is. Three succinct reasons to respect all people all of the time, which add up to a whole lot more than “just because.” Here’s that same list in an even shorter form:
- Respect affirms everyone’s inherent worth.
- Respect helps to create a more civil society.
- Respect helps to preserve the sanctity of life.
So, keep on respecting. Spread respect far and wide. Have respect for all and encourage your children and grandchildren (if you have them) to respect everyone. Help others learn from your example. Respect matters. Respect makes a difference. Respect is the foundation upon which strong relationships can be built. Keep striving. Together we can build a brighter future.
Founder & CEO, Century of Compassion