Respect is the birthright of newborn babies, centenarians, and everyone in between. We must have due regard for the feelings, rights, and traditions of each other. Some people, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Pol Pot come to mind, negate our need to respect them. These irredeemably evil villains are the exception that proves my point: to retain our claim on respect we need only refrain from depravity.
Honor, while often confused with respect, is not the same thing.
Honor is earned. Prior to rapid, mass communication, it often took a lifetime to acquire bona fides that led to honor. Even then, sometimes the perspective of history was required to determine the level of reverence someone ought to be accorded.
Contemporary society has badly muddled this issue. Honor is conferred on people with no achievements, perhaps in an attempt to present them as honorable. Other times, absolutely ordinary accomplishments are given outsized acclaim.
Worst of all, many people refuse to respect someone unless that person has been honored first.
All of these misconceptions impede development of healthy self-respect. Being prematurely honored often leads a person to become egotistical or to feel worthless since he perceives he is undeserving. According honor to someone of average performance creates an unjust equivalence with the extraordinary performer who then may question the value of any honor he has received.
Finally, when honor is the required antecedent of respect, people tend to act dismissively, even contemptuously, toward each other. It follows that a serious impediment toward self-respect is created.
Previously I have written about the loss of formality and language inflation in contemporary society. Children addressing adults as Mr. or Mrs., attiring oneself according to the demands of an occasion and being judicious in word usage all confer respect on people and boost self-respect.
Rather than pursuing honor, we should strive to raise our self-respect by conveying respect.
Question – What would you do to revitalize the proper place of respect and honor in our society?
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