Respect is a broad topic. There are so many different forms of it, coming with higher or lower standards. There’s respect for animals, the planet, people, rights, cultures, yourself . . .

But what, exactly, is respect?

I spent three months in Thailand last year. One thing that always stuck out to me was the respect I saw. It was everywhere. They had respect for everything. The land, the animals (uh, maybe not so much for the mangy street dogs) and especially the elderly. To them respect was essential. It was an acknowledgment as if to say, I “see” you and I respect you. Maybe that was because I had white skin. Either way, their respect impacted me.

Coming back to North America was a different story. It opened my eyes to the lack there of. Of course it differs from person to person, but respect is not a quality that you can call one of our strong points. Sure, we are open and accepting of differences. But, is that respect?

Respect is something that is demanded, yet rarely given. I feel as if the only time one gives thought to respect is when one is on the receiving line of the opposite. Respect is a big issue with youth today. Parents will complain how they (their children) don’t show respect. Yet when I’ve had conversations about this specific topic, what they will often pose is why give respect when they themselves don’t feel respected? Although that is selfishly ridiculous, there is a point there. We live in a society where we often only give to receive. Like it’s so much easier to love someone who is lovable and give love back. Respect is kind of the same. Once we feel respect from a person we’ll be more inclined to give them our respect. In that sense, respect is conditional. Conditional respect? Really? I don’t think so . . .

Really respect should be given to every living and breathing creature. Too often we link respect with trust and feel like a person should have to work for our respect like they have to gain our trust. It can be like that to a certain extent. But a person should be given our initial respect because of the fact that they are a person. And from there it will grow or vanish altogether depending on the experience.

Back to the main question.

What is respect?

Here’s my final thought. Respect is looking the homeless man in the eye and giving him a smile. It’s giving the person who hurt you most a civil second chance. Respect is looking past the career of a prostitute and seeing a person who needs to feel real love. It’s showing love for life in general and acknowledging the creation around us.


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