A young guy steps up to his older supervisor. “I don’t think you respect me,” the young guy says.
“Nope,” the older man replies.
“But…but you should!” the young man stammers. After all, respect is a basic human right, something every person is entitled to.
Except, they’re not. Not by a long shot.
Every person you see is entitled to a few things. They’re entitled to be treated courteously (courtesy being a manly virtue) and with dignity.
Respect, however, is something different and, literally, no one owes you respect. No one.
“My kids had damn well better respect me,” some might say, and to them, I say good luck.
Most of us are familiar with the idea that respect isn’t given, it’s earned. That’s why being respected matters so much to us as people. It’s a type of social capital, and we almost instinctively understand its use. People who are respected have a greater standing in a given community, and we all crave that on some level.
There’s a very definite parallel between respect and money. Both are earned, are valuable, and both are things the current generation seems to think they deserve just for existing.
Where the difference falls apart is that respect can’t be taxed and redistributed. The IRS can’t take 20 percent of the respect you’re given and hand it to the patchouli-smelling Millennial who sits in the coffee shop all day talking about bands no one has heard of.
It’s also can’t be stolen. No thug with a knife will make you hand over your respect. It just can’t happen.
However, there are people who want your respect without doing anything to deserve it. There are people who believe you owe them respect because all people should be respected, yet not one can tell me why they deserve respect.
From my experience, they stammer about dignity and decency, but never actually tell me why they deserve it.
When someone respects another, they tend to treat that person with courtesy, dignity, and deference. In fact, many will look at this as someone being treated with respect.
Yet it’s not always that way.
Often among men, when they respect one another, the treatment is the exact opposite. The verbal sparring looks from the outside like outright hatred. Fighting words are exchanged, even.
Here’s an example.
Years ago, a friend of mine and his wife had their first son. My wife and I visited the hospital, spoke with the new mother and father for a while, then went home.
Since I worked with the guy, I emailed him the next day and said, “That’s a good looking boy. Looks just like his daddy.”
He replied, “Yeah? You think so?”
“Yep,” I answered. “He’s got my eyes and everything.”
Now, a joke like this doesn’t look respectful in the least. The thing is, when men bond, this is what it can look like. No deference, no courtesy even, but there is a deep respect for one another.
Not everyone wants that, however.
Going back to the idea of a parent saying their kids will respect them, let’s be honest. A child will respect their parents at times, and won’t at others. This is called “normal.”
As I’ve already pointed out, respect can’t be forced. You will never successfully make your kids respect you. You can’t.
What you can do is insist your children act in a manner consistent with respect. Remember that courtesy and deference stuff I mentioned earlier? That you can and should insist on, but actual respect?
That you still have to earn.
No one owes you anything, as a general rule. You’re not born with a ledger of debts you need to collect in life. You have to earn everything. Sometimes it’ll be easy. Sometimes it won’t.
Earning respect is tough. That’s why people want it so badly. That’s why it’s so valuable.
But you’re not entitled to respect. You’ll never be entitled to respect. Get used to the idea.