How Important Is Respect?

The notion of respect plays an important role in our life and in our culture. We have sayings like, “respect your elders”. Often, it is among the first social lessons parents teach their children. There is even a song that spells it out: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

With that in mind, it seems natural that some people get upset when disrespect is shown. They might get particularly agitated when the subject matter is something they care passionately about.

However, there is an obvious problem: there are no rules about what deserves respect and what doesn’t. Or how to show it.

In some instances, we codify these rules into laws. For instance, you should respect the sanctity of human life. Then if you do not, there are legal consequences.

But not every issue rises to that level of importance. For those that do not, how should we deal with it when two people disagree?

It might seem important to respect the beliefs of others. But what if one of those beliefs is something you strongly disagree with? Or that you feel places someone else in danger?

For example, let’s consider the issue of spanking. One person might believe that spanking is a good way to discipline a child. Another person may view spanking as child abuse. Should we respect the rights of a parent to raise their child the way they wish, or the beliefs of the person concerned for the welfare of that child?

The scale for what deserves respect is a sliding one, different for each individual. We all have different values, and finding common ground can be challenging.

How important is respect? What should the consequences be for disrespect? Who should decide what should be respected and what shouldn’t?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? How can we encourage debate? What do we have in common? What does it mean to be thankful? Where does authority come from? What beliefs do you have that might be wrong?

How Has Luck Shaped Your Life?

When we think about the events in our lives, most people do not acknowledge the role of luck in what has happened to them.

If something good happens, you may be tempted to ascribe it to something that you did, or something that you earned. Good things happen because you worked hard. Or because you planned. Maybe you were smarter than others, which allowed you to succeed.

Similarly, negative events can often be blamed on a conspiracy against you. If you don’t get that raise at work, it is because your boss doesn’t like you. Even if you accept the blame — you didn’t get the raise because you didn’t work enough overtime, for example — that may not be accurate.

Luck plays a larger role in our lives than many admit. Most of the big decisions in your life, like where you live, what company you work for, who you are married to, where you went to college, etc. often come down to luck.

Maybe you chose to look at one open house and not another, and the one you picked is the place you currently live. Why did you choose one over the other? You got lucky.

You might have selected one party instead of another, and at that party you met the love of your life. In hindsight, it was a wise choice. But at the time you made it, it was the equivalent of a coin flip.

This is not to say that no one deserves anything in their lives, good or bad. People make bad decisions. Then they must live with the consequences of those bad decisions. But not every bad outcome is due to a bad decision, and not every benefit in life comes from merit.

How has luck (good or bad) shaped your life? Do you think you have had more good luck, or bad? Or is it about equal?

Related questions: What is luck? Can you make yourself luckier? How do you define success? When is doubt helpful?

A special thanks to Meagan O’Brien, who suggested the question.