“We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other’s opposite and complement.”
–Hermann Hesse, Narcissus and Goldmund
This week was spent in musing over why it is that there are some people who are just easy to respect and why there are those who make respecting them so tantalizingly difficult.
I don’t know about you, but it’s easy for me to envision that one person who, no matter your personal mood at the time of the encounter, will automatically command your full attention and your full respect. For myself, there is one wonderful coworker that I will go out of my way in order to make sure her needs are met; I will stay later, will work harder, simply to make sure that she has an easier time with things.
On the other hand I have a coworker who I don’t try to make things harder for, but I don’t jump to exert much more effort than absolutely necessary regarding his personal sanity.
Neither of these instances have much to do with me, really. I don’t want to go out of my way to serve one coworker because I’m a good person. And I don’t spend extra time and effort not serving another because I’m lazy or malicious.
No, my treatment of my coworkers stems from more than simply how good of a person I am; it dives into how respected I feel by the coworker. Because honestly, it’s quite easy to respect those who respect us.
The coworker who I would go out of my way for would–and does, quite often–go out of her way for me. She stays later, works harder, suffers more simply so that I don’t have to. This level of respect inspires me to search ways to return the favor.
So friends, I would like to offer you Humanity’s Musing of the Week:
If I respect those who respect me, than this implies others will respect me if I respect them. So how do people want to be respected?
For all I know, my difficult coworker could be trying his hardest to show me respect. He could be exerting exponential efforts to respect me in his own way; the point is, that however that way might be (or might not be), it isn’t how I personally receive respect. So it doesn’t actually count.
I don’t feel respected when others put me in a box. When others try to “figure me out” and then cage me into categories of identification. I don’t want to be “The Vegan” or “The Feminist” or “The RA”, because those boxes disable me from independence. It most often happens that I don’t get to personally set the definitions of each box, they come pre-established.
Example: I consider myself to be a runner. My description of this category is a part of life that helps me escape from reality; being a runner enables me to lose myself in an inspiring and challenging podcast, to see more of the world at a faster pace, to isolate my tendency to control with an activity that allows me to do such.
Often I feel that the label of a runner brings implications of weight loss, or that one wants a toned body as fast as possible. That running isn’t enjoyable, it’s not meant to bring joy, it’s simply a means to a thinner me. Thus, when some categorize me as a “runner”, I know they don’t understand exactly what it means to me to be a runner. Because of such, I feel caged within the category, my individual reasons for loving running are slightly compressed. I don’t feel respected when people categorize me. Instead of being boxed as a runner, I would feel much more respected–if absolutely needed to be put into a category–by being “one who runs”. It seems picky; it seems perhaps a bit “too technical”. But, hey, it’s how I feel respect; I get to be however technical I want.
This is because my version of respect includes allowing me to function independently of other’s expectations and of societal norms. I feel respected when others allow me to be whatever Josie I am in the mood to be without making me feel as if I were some sort of dramatic anomaly instead of the constant work in progress that I actually am. Some make me feel as if I need to settle in order to allow them to effectively keep me in categories.
But I acknowledge that this kind of respect is not universal.
Not everyone wants to be left to this kind of independence; there are some that function so much better when they have the guidance and structure from others. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, it doesn’t make one needy or dependent. They simply interact with the world differently.
Some feel respected when they are categorized because it shows them that they are respected enough to belong to a group.
Some feel respected when others encourage them to “go out of their comfort zones”; I personally feel disrespected when others don’t allow my “no to be a no”.
Some feel respected when they are called out on things, because it shows them that you are listening.
Some feel respected when others ask to share their burdens; others feel disrespect, because they assume that you don’t deem them capable of handling such a burden alone.
What’s the point?
It kind of seems as if there is no way to please anyone, doesn’t it?
Not at all, friends! Can you imagine how boring life would be, if we all liked to be treated the same way? There would be no individuality! Part of the fun comes from observing and figuring out how others individually like to be respected, and then applying that upon them.
Today, tomorrow, this month, the rest of your life; whatever time period you would like to set for yourself: try to remember that people want to be respected in the way that they feel respect. They don’t want to be respected in the way that you feel respect.
Therefore this takes awareness and observation. Respecting someone takes more than introspection, it goes beyond knowing yourself to knowing others.
Find, maybe through trial and error, maybe simply through asking them, how someone feels respect.
Once you make someone feel respected–and they feel as if you took the time to understand respect from their perspective–then they will almost certainly extend the same courtesy toward you.
And what a beautiful world in which we would live if this were the cycle of humanity.
Peace & Blessings,