I don’t like the idea of having to “earn” someone’s respect. To me a great deal of the world’s woes derive from people making entirely too much effort in finding reasons to dislike and harbor grudges against each other. In short, to disrespect one another. It’s a very simple idea, perhaps over-simplified, but I think we’d all do much better by respecting each other by default.
Personally, I prefer to give everyone my respect from the get-go. You, by the virtue of being another human being, are my equal in my eyes. It’s from there that your actions and beliefs retain or lose that respect. And that’s not meant to sound judgemental; you are entitled to your beliefs and your way of life as much as anyone else. We may not agree at all, we may be entirely incompatible as people, but that’s just how our wacky species goes. It’s when you start to diminish and endanger the lives of others that we’re going to have a problem. To quote Tom Lehrer:
“There are people in this world who cannot tolerate their fellow man, and I hate people like that.”
But getting back to the point: I respect you. And with that respect comes trust. Because I am going to treat you with respect I’m going to trust you’ll do the same to me, and that this is how the world generally works. That’s incredibly naive, I know, and maybe even dangerously so. I am fully aware that how I look, where I’m from, and all manner of identifiers will classify me as “one of them” to someone else and instantly lose their respect, and subsequently their trust.
As sad and as terrifying as that is, I can’t help it. There is a much larger world around me, and it’s had a whole lot going on to set up the reality we share today. All I can do is shape the little pocket of the world around me and hope that, maybe, my respect for you will earn back your trust. With that, you will come to respect me. And if we’re going to be really hopeful, you’ll extend that respect to the next person you meet like me and they will likewise respect you in return.
And when I screw it all up by doing something stupid, don’t hold it against me, please. But we’ll talk about “forgiveness” another time.