Who Deserves Respect?

Morality Education
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By Chris Nwedo
Respect is virtuous act. There is a moral compulsion to give it as appropriate. However, it is difficult to conceive of anything deserving of absolute respect. Absolute respect typically means complete or perfect respect, or respect not subject to limitations, restrictions or exceptions.

Luca, a good-natured friend, returned from work strangely quiet and perceptibly inappropriate. And without waiting to be asked what happened he recounted how they spent hours in office waiting for Mrs. Fallen to summarize her boringly long repeated speeches on how to be given what she described as an ‘absolute respect’. According to Luca, as the irritable lecture was going on, another infuriated colleague tapped him on his right arm and asked conspiratorially “why is this woman arrogant and trivial? Why so full of herself?” And regrettably, she was unable to give us an idea of what she meant by the “absolute respect” she was asking for.

At a point, Paschal who was in the habit of continuous confrontation with Mrs. Fallen whispered, “it appears she is demanding respect with hidden guns all around her. Moreover, respect for what, and what obligations again do we have apart from doing our work according to guidelines? Leave her alone she seems to be intensely challenged by improper perception of herself”, Paschal concluded. “Fallen needs urgent psychological intervention” Miss Alina quipped in. “She is absolutely obsessed, and really out of restraint, wonders shall never end.”
But Luca should have known not to be disquieted. Styles of leadership differ. Without doubt, Mrs. Fallen is a case of someone who expects to be respected simply because of her job title, and wants a one-way version of respect. She does not see respect as something mutual, transactional, or intrinsic in every colleague. This is a pointer to the fact she misunderstands the meaning or value of respect. The value is that everyone is worthy of respect. Respect is a virtue. What is virtuous in it is that it demonstrates feeling of good will about the recipient. It shows care and concern for the well-being of the other. When you respect someone, you consider him or her as a person of worth. It dignifies the giver.
Mrs. Fallen does not dignify herself by under-appreciating her colleagues. Proper knowledge of values of leadership has a lot of positive impact both on the leader and the led. In one of our meetings before commencement of work, our team leader, Mrs. Valentina, asked for dedication to duty and efficiency, stressing the importance of positive conducts and concluded with the aphorism that respect is reciprocal. “Anyone wishing to be respected must imperatively respect others,” she emphasized. “No one is entitled to more respect than he or she gives”.
Everyone needs respect. Life is endangered and no longer worth living if self-respect is irretrievably lost. The importance of respect is stressed in every culture and religion. As children we were all taught (one hopes) to respect our parents, teachers, and elders, school rules and traffic laws, family, culture, traditions, other people’s feelings and rights, our country’s flag and leaders, the truth and peoples differing opinions.

It is the comparisons of the two contradicting positions on the question of respect that inspired the putting into writing these reflections on the subject matter. The first case is the typical of one-way mode of respect. Naturally, one-way version of respect is abhorrent. It is not respectful to the other person. It is incongruent. Furthermore, the virtue of respect is premised on the understanding that no one alone is entitled to it because it is shared or reciprocal. “It is part of everyday wisdom that respect and self-respect are deeply connected, that it is difficult if not impossible both to respect others if we do not respect ourselves and to respect ourselves if others do not respect us.” Respect can be earned in the sense that it must be maintained deliberately. This is why it is possible to vary it by behaviour. As much as respect is inherent in our dignity as persons, good behaviour keeps respect in form and bad behaviour undermines it. “We develop great respect for people we consider exemplary and lose respect for those we discover to be clay-footed, and so we may try to respect only those who are truly worthy of our respect”.
In Moral Philosophy respect for the dignity of human person is very fundamental. “Respect (full) calls on each and every one of us to respect the intrinsic dignity of all other people. If something is intrinsic to us, it is essential to our being and cannot be earned”.

A wide variety of things are said to deserve respect, contemporary philosophical interest in respect has overwhelmingly been focused on respect for persons, and the idea is that all persons should be treated with respect. This demand for respect leaves out of consideration the circumstances of race, colour, social position, individual characteristics achievements, or moral merit. In this conception, the moral duty to respect does not consider your dispositions such as interest of any kind. Here, “respect thus differs from attitudes such as liking, which are based in the agents’ interests”. No one is without desire to be respected. Some people ‘command’ more respect than others. This could be as a result of some kinds of exceptional circumstances which may also involve age considerations or achievements. Above assertions refer to the quality of attention, esteem or concern we are disposed to offer an individual prior to proper knowledge of the behavior of the individual. However, the respect may be withdrawn as the relationship proceeds. The withdrawal of the deference naturally may occur as a result of discovery that such an individual hardly worth the quality of the special consideration.
This can be when it is known that the individual is of odious character or of inclinations that the respect giver considers irreconcilable. In addition, people are respected due to the nature of their backgrounds. This may involve cases of individuals from royal families, ruling classes or the super-rich. But respect founded on these factors are ephemeral and easily lost if unaccompanied by approvable conduct. Profession is a major predisposing factor in this subject, respect. In most societies religious leaders, law enforcement officers, captains of industries, doctors, nurses, soldiers, politicians etc are deeply respected because of what they do and represent. Note, the kinds of special consideration given to these individuals are profoundly subject to confirmation by positive comportment. It is obvious that there is nothing in an individual or profession that magnetizes respect and keeps it perpetually for the individual without conscious input.

Here are some comportment of someone deserving respect: An honest, resourceful, persevering and self-restrained individual commands respect. ‘Command’ in the sense that you cannot avoid giving him or her the reverence or admiration notwithstanding how mean you want to be. He or she is compatible with the respect, and therefore deserves it. In general, there is the supposition that individuals of this disposition are positive and inspire positive conducts. Self-restraint makes the individual to control his/her temper, and the individual too does not allow subjective preferences to overrule him or her on duty.

Compare this with an abhorrent conduct of a law enforcement officer with uncontrollable temper, biased and of rebellious conducts, a corrupt politician, a dishonest health officer, hypocritical religious leader or a boss whose character gives complete definition of iniquity. Reliability or trustworthiness is a trait of a respectable person. In some societies politicians are not respected because they are not reliable or trustworthy. Due to habitual falsehood they are despised. The increases in crime rates in some communities are directly linked to the people’s refusal to cooperate with the law enforcement officers they neither respect nor trust due to bad behavior.

Leaders who accept responsibility when things go wrong are respected. They deserve respect because of the attitude that makes them maintain positive postures even in the steam of intense crisis. After the ongoing rampages of Covid-19 pandemic, some national leaders are likely to emerge victorious and respected while many are likely to confront public scorn for roles played. Responsible leaders take blames instead of transposing them. They do not curse and denounce circumstances; they embrace circumstances and inspire commitment for resolution. They have high self-esteem, and their loyalties are not questionable. As a result of these attributes they are respected because they deserve it.

For some scholars, an attitude of respect is, most generally, a relation between a subject and an object in which the subject responds to the object from a certain perspective in some appropriate way. Respect necessarily has an object: respect is always directed toward, paid to, felt about, and shown for some object. While a very wide variety of things can be appropriate objects of one kind of respect or another, the subject of respect (the respecter) is always a person, that is, a conscious rational being capable of recognizing and acknowledging things, one capable of self-consciously and intentionally responding to respect, a person capable of having and expressing values with regard to respect and being accountable for disrespecting or failing to respect. Though animals may love or fear us, only persons can respect and disrespect us or anything else.

Giving respect is virtuous act. There is a moral compulsion to give it as appropriate. However, it is difficult to conceive of anything deserving of absolute respect. Absolute respect typically means complete or perfect respect, or respect not subject to limitations, restrictions or exceptions. Since nothing is absolute within time and space, it is difficult comprehend respect that is absolute. Quality of respect is conditional. You take respect as much as you give it. It is communal or reciprocal. The measure of respect you give is the function of the ones you receive.
Respect is great. It motivates the receiver. It encourages the individual to continue to be resilient in doing the right thing. Respect equally conveys dignity to the giver. Respect is selective and measurable. For Cranor, “respect is thus reason-governed, we cannot respect a particular object for just any odd reason or for no reason at all. Rather, we respect an object for the reason that it has, in our judgment, some respect-warranting characteristic, that it is, in our view, the kind of object that calls for that kind of response.

In accord with this modest exposure, one is inclined to argue that those deserving respect are the honest and the resourceful. Reliability is a trait of a respectable person. Leaders who voluntarily take responsibility when things go wrong are models for respect. Dubious bosses, corrupt politicians and public servants are scornful. They do not deserve respect. Uncontrollable or rebellious law enforcement officers are curses to the society. Pharisaic religious leaders do not deserve respect, rather they merit chastisement. Love the one who loves you. Respect the one who deserves it. Value those who take care of you. And forget those who do not deserve you.

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