Earn Respect?


I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people say that their respect needs to be earned or that others need to give respect to get respect.  I ask myself, how does this make sense?  What is it that makes someone better than another to demand for their respect to be earned?  Why is it that another person has to show respect first?  How is this fair?  This way of thinking is, frankly put, selfish.  It is all blurred by arrogance and pride, creating a complete double standard.

Often times, these feelings of superiority may be expressed toward someone younger, a stranger who rubbed you the wrong way, or maybe someone who you think already disrespected you, but what makes you so much better than them that you can’t show respect first?  If everyone believed this, then why is it appropriate to show manners and be polite?  Why is it expected for people to say thank you or to say excuse me?  These are all displays of respect for others.  It is a mutual respect, meaning that both parties are respectful of one another.  It does not mean that one person must belittle themselves until another deems them worthy of respect.

It is selfish to think that peers and even strangers don’t deserve your respect during a first, second, or third encounter.  It is even more selfish to think that they must work toward earning your respect first.  When will they have gained it?  After a polite hello or will it take more than that?

It is common to see elders implement this kind of thinking.  A teacher may not have mutual respect for their student just like how a grandparent may demand respect from their grandchild.  Yes, you must respect your elders, but, no matter the age, respect should be universal.  Respect does not and should not discriminate.  We are all people and, if nothing wrong has been done, then why revert to disrespect?

As a young dance teacher, I have experienced times where I was disrespected by the parents of my students.  Because of my age, they believed that I did not deserve the same respect as others, so they didn’t show me any.  Despite the disrespect that I was met with, I always showed them respect and, after they realized that my age was not a factor in my job, they had no choice but to respect me back.  Because of their initial disrespect, I could have easily implemented the give respect to get respect mentality, but I didn’t.  Instead, I tried to be mature and never disrespected anybody.  I simply gave respect.  Eventually, that’s what I got.  Respect.

So, yes, this phrase is true.  Respect must be given to be received, but it is not meant to be used against others.  It is meant to be reflected on yourself.  You have to give respect in order to get respect.  With that mentality everyone can gain respect and there will no longer be a vicious cycle of disrespect toward one another.  Mutual respect can then be universal.

Additionally, I think that it is absolutely possible to lose someone’s respect.  That’s what happens when you show disrespect or just display a not so attractive side of your personality.  So, if you can lose respect, then it is possible to earn back a person’s respect; however, simply earning someone’s respect in the first place shouldn’t happen.  No one should be stripped of respect at first glance.  Everyone deserves respect until they have proven why they should lose it.  So remember to give respect before you start demanding it from others.  It will make all the difference.


About Tatiana Figueroa Ramirez

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the mainland United States, I graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and am a 2016 VONA Voices Alumna. I currently perform spoken-word in the greater Washington D.C. area and have previously performed in Philadelphia, Miami, and the Dominican Republic. Most recently, I have been published in Public Pool, Spillwords, and The Acentos Review, and Here Comes Everyone: East & West Issue.

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