The BizCatalyst 360° article by Diane F. Wyzga, JD (60 Seconds: What If Somebody Liked You?) gave me an idea to put some thoughts on a blank screen. I haven’t written anything for a few months. I waited for inspiration. Thank you, Diane.
We all know people we simply don’t like, be it people in our neighbourhood, workplace, or even family members. Everyone has certainly experienced the sense of disliking someone from the first instant. I also had those gut reactions about some people the first time I met them. I attribute that to my intuition, although the logical side of my brain always tries to find reasonable explanations for my ‘hunches.’ I deeply believe in intuition or sixth sense. However, I’m aware there are other (logical) reasons than just intuition for making the judgment of someone we just met.
Also, there are people we dislike, although never met. We dislike them based on their actions and what we’ve read or heard about them, how they are presented in the media, or simply because they don’t belong to our ‘tribe’, be it political or social. Many historical figures and today’s public figures and politicians fall into this category.
Still, dislike and respect can go hand in hand.
I believe that respect for someone can coexist with knowing their negative traits and behaviours. Human identity is multi-layered and complex. You may dislike some of a person’s traits and still respect that person for their other traits and values. For example, I can have great respect for a person because of their accomplishments and intelligence, and at the same time, dislike them because of their bad attitude towards others or oversized ego. Since respect is subjective, the same traits that caused me to respect someone might have been perceived differently by people with different value systems.
But could you genuinely respect a person with too many traits you dislike and behaviours you disapprove of? And I don’t mean just behaving respectfully, i.e., being polite and considerate of another person.
Having respect for a person and behaving respectfully are two completely different things.
Showing respect to a person you don’t have respect for reminds me of the saying: “Salute the rank, not the man.” There are many people in the position of authority you need to treat with respect, however, without having respect for them as individuals.
When authority figures are to ‘be respected,’ it is forced respect. There are many examples of governments ruling through directed violence against those who publicly disagree and criticize their policies to maintain their ‘respect.’ It has nothing to do with respect but fear. Fear does not equal respect.
Behaving respectfully toward others can be also used for manipulative purposes, to get something from them and not because of respecting them.
Genuinely respecting a person means not pretending.
I have to say – I struggle with the concept of respect.
To whom do we owe respect? It is a question on which there’s no agreement, even in theory. People understand the issue of respect and its moral requirements differently. For many, respect is conditioned by one’s behaviours or intentions and is something that should be earned.
I was taught that having respect for a person means respecting the intrinsic dignity of every human being. Since human dignity is inviolable, such respect is unconditioned.
However, to feel respect for everyone may seem unnatural in the matter of a person willingly involved in atrocities and tortures. Is it possible to respect child rapists? Do they lose their right to respect after committing such unspeakable crimes, or are they owed respect just because they are human beings?
Can we truly accept that every human being is worthy of respect and that the ground of respect is independent of their moral demerits? It means that Hitler and Mother Theresa are both worthy of our respect. (Actually, millions respected Hitler as a national saviour and turned a blind eye to the atrocities of the Nazi regime.)
Another question arises: Do we have moral obligations to respect those who don’t respect us and our fundamental rights as human beings?
All said are my thoughts in the light of recent events, war, and genocide in Ukraine that put the principle of respect for persons to the test. How one can respect butchers who committed the massacre in Bucha and enjoy doing so?
Philosophical and ethical discussions about the nature of respect often lead to many conflicting directions. There is also disagreement in understanding human dignity as a moral justification for equality. There are views that human dignity is relative. Rejecting intrinsic dignity paves the way for thinking that some humans are better than others, and those others can be treated as if they are less than humans – that don’t deserve respect. It opens the door for atrocity and genocide. The Nazis considered Jews and Gypsies to be sub-humans. The Rwanda genocide or the genocide of Australia’s Tasmanian Aborigines are just a few in a line of many examples of dehumanisation throughout history.
While writing, as always, my thoughts go in many directions. I started writing about disliking but also touched on dehumanisation. Although dislike is different from dehumanisation, the opposite for both is respect. We don’t have to like each other, but much more important is getting people to see each other as dignified human beings no matter the differences. It starts with ourselves first and realising our own prejudices.
Is it possible? Unlikely. We live in a hierarchically structured world where dehumanisation is a part of human interactions. Many still look at entire racial or ethnic groups as inferior human beings. Whether we are aware of it or not, each of us is capable of inhumane treatment of others, and each of us, at some time, may experience no longer being respected as a human being.
As for the title of my article, we all have instinctive preferences for some people over others. People will like me or not. I can’t influence it; it’s their choice. There will always be those who won’t like me because my values and ideas don’t match theirs. I also hope there will be those who, although they may not share my opinion, will value my point of view and respect my integrity and honesty. We can have respect for persons we don’t like or agree with. Being respected and feeling valued, regardless of whether being liked, really matters to me.