Respect is a funny thing isn’t it? An intangible but a powerful force to reckon with. You know when you have it. However, a bit like water and food, you’re even more acutely aware of it when you don’t have it.
We’re taught from a young age that adults and authority figures deserve respect. Throughout history, there have been innumerable instances when those figures have abused the power of the respect bestowed on them by others by taking advantage of and mistreating those around them. Often, they get away with their actions with very few consequences. Why? Because they are often shielded by others who revere them or benefit from them or bask in the reflected glory of the respected person.
When you go through life and there are ups and downs, you realise quite quickly that people are chameleons. People quite often astound me – and not in the positive sense of the world. To some, position, power and wealth is king. It is absolutely everything. You can be an absolutely wretched, deplorable human being. But, because you have an important position, or are in power, or have wealth – you are impressive, worthy and deserving of respect. On the other hand, you can be kind, helpful, an angel of a human being – but without wealth, or an important job, or not wielding power over anyone – you’re valued as worthless. Undeserving of respect. Your words are not valued, your actions are not valued. You are a ‘nothing’ in their eyes. Nothing.
The older I get, the more and more I observe this behaviour in the world around me. People fawning like sycophants over people with wealth and/or power. If truth be told, it angers me. Those people who are so superficial and lacking in integrity, that the way they judge people is purely based on wealth and power and position – and that is their criteria for giving people respect – in my eyes, these people are truly despicable.
Surely, you have to dig a bit deeper? Surely, if you are going to give respect to someone – you have to have loftier ideals? Surely, the recipient of your respect has to be a good human being in the first place? Surely, they have to be kind and good? Surely, being in their presence should make you feel good about yourself?
The thing with wealth and power – you never know when it will come, or when it will go. The other intangible qualities: kindness, helpfulness, reliability, integrity, ability to keep your promises…these are not transient attributes. They don’t simply come and go. These qualities, if you have them – they are there for life. Why aren’t these people given the most amount or respect? Because if they were – our world would be a different place. Certainly not the brutal mess it is at the moment.
I have met people who have been cruel. Who have been unkind. Who have done their best to break people around them, destroy their confidence, stamped out the light inside others. Often, it is these types of people in power. They treat their subordinates in this way. Many leave. Some leave before too much damage has been done. Others leave after they have been completely destroyed. Those who stay they emulate this behaviour once they get into power because they admire and respect this style and believe that this is the best way to be.
There are those of course who have wealth, power and position, and are absolute gems of human beings. Those people are few and far between.
I will say this – we are on the brink of a new year. 2019. 2018 has felt extremely drama filled and tumultuous when you look at events on a global scale. At the moment, the world doesn’t seem like a particularly kind, safe place to be living in. On the Earth at the moment, the best people are actually primary school aged children. They are the ones who are the most idealistic people, wanting the world to be a better place, treating each other with kindness and calling out others who do not behave correctly. They often show patience to those who are different, and won’t tolerate unkindness in others.
What the hell happens to them? Why do those incredible qualities that they are born with, because children are inherently good and kind, why do they get battered out of them? When does respect for goodness and kindness become substituted for money and power?
I don’t know. What I do know is that we need to take a good hard look at ourselves and reflect on our own behaviour. If we want to live in a more peaceful and happier world, we need to re-evaluate as a society who and what we give respect to.
I know, I know, I’ve laboured the point enough… but I’ll leave you with this…
We make choices all the time. Our choices have consequences. If we choose to give the wrong type of people respect – the repercussions are horrific. We cannot blame those in power for their behaviour, if we are the people who put them there and crucially, keep them there in the first place. Let’s start taking responsibility for our actions, and slowly but surely, let’s start changing the world.
One can only but hope.