Dangerous Compassions

what respect is

what respect is

Hello, I was thinking about what respect is.  Meeting a potential community member, I wanted to ask if she respects all people, and what respect means to her.  Then I realized I should answer that question for myself!

what respect is

Some people think of respect as earned–if someone has expertise or authority.  I don’t think of respect that way.  In my life, respect is for everyone.  I treat all people with basic kindness and care as best I can.

I can’t do everything for everyone–far from it.  But I want to at least regard people as they are.  Each person is a unique individual.  I acknowledge the Mystery inside.  This is a complex being with a long history.  Who knows what disabilities, traumas, pains, desires, world views, feelings, projects.

Respect is listening to someone, at least enough to have a sense of what they’re saying.  Not listening indefinitely, or listening after I’ve been seriously harmed.  But at least a small amount of listening.  Some people are hurtful almost right away, and those people are hard to listen to.

Respect is clarity, boundaries, consent.  So giving people ample space, not demanding on them.  If we’re in relationship, I need to say what I need as I am able, and consider what they need.  Having a firm boundary like “no” can help me, but also help another person know what the parameters are, so they don’t violate the parameters.


How does respect differ from love?  They have a lot in common.

Love is a subset of respect–love is very respectful but has affection and might be more individualized.  Love has tenderness and usually a desire to be close.  Respect is more general and impersonal, without love’s sweetness.


I like this meme about meanings.  Image is tumblr user stimmyabby with small userpic of diamond on orange background, then black text on white background.  It says:

Sometimes people use “respect” to mean “treating someone like a person” and sometimes they use “respect” to mean “treating someone like an authority.”

and sometimes people who are used to being treated like an authority say “if you won’t respect me, I won’t respect you” and they mean “if you won’t treat me like an authority, I won’t treat you like a person.”

and they think they’re being fair but they aren’t, and that’s not okay.

what respect is

Such a smart distinction!  Love it!

On facebook my friend said yes, you don’t need authority if you’re respected.  I like that idea.  I think my friend meant that if you’re respected, you don’t need the big truck, loud voice, lotsa guns, or power over others.  If you have a stable sense of who you are and your life’s work and trust your own worth, you don’t need to push ideas of your worth onto other people all the time.


We learn about our own worth and non-worth as children in our families, and at school, church, or other places we go.  But with a fuckton of work, we can heal and make our own ideas as adults.  I’m sorry if the people around us got it wrong when we were little.

We have some choice about how we see ourselves.  Seeing myself as unconditionally ok and “all bodies are valid bodies” has been years of work, and I’m happy to be here.  This is how I changed my understanding of myself.

  • ecstatic dance
  • fat liberation, on my own and with others
  • study
  • seeking liberated role models
  • therapy and peer counseling
  • ritual and prayer
  • nature time
  • self awareness
  • writing
  • art making
  • meditation
  • singing
  • qigong
  • radical mental health

All these ways of healing take tons of work and time, but I love the project.

I don’t see any excuse for violence.  Whatever was the world has done to you, you don’t need to hurt other people–there are better choices.

what do you think

What do you think?  Did I miss any important parts of what respect is?

I hope you respect yourself and other people, and receive the respect you need.  It can be hard work to care for others and ourselves skillfully, but that’s a big part of why we’re here, doing culture, being with people.

Beavers build dams–songbirds sing.  Lichen grow slowly on rocks and wood.  People relate to people, communicate, form families and other groups, and hopefully respect and love one another.  That’s part of our whole deal.

Beavers and birds have cultures and families too.  Lichen is a composite organism.  I feel amazed when I see them and pause to marvel at their beauty.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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