Ladies And Gentlemen

There is often a great tension between the privileges of rank and the obligations of rank. Some of us (myself included) are greatly motivated by questions of honor and respect and rather sensitive to slights and offenses in this regard. Most people who consider themselves to be elites and aristocrats think of themselves as above critique and accountability to the common herd. And, truth be told, I am nothing if not a commoner. All of my education and culture cannot hide my passionate support of the well-being of ordinary people who lack connections or extensive family pedigree, nor can it hide my basic mistrust of those who claim to be above accountability to standards of justice and virtue. Higher titles do not make someone immune from criticism and accountability from ordinary people, but rather they make someone accountable to more people for their activities.

People do not often think about accountability when they seek power and position. Some people look for power because they think that a title makes them somebody, clothing them with respect and dignity and honor that they may not have based on their own character. Some people look for power because they want to do something, and that power is a means to an end for themselves and for those who support their search for power. Sometimes people serve the interests of others, sometimes they serve their own self-interest, and sometimes they serve the interests of themselves and the general public at the same time (it is this last group of solutions that I find the most appealing for myself personally). It is easy to speak the rhetoric of service, but difficult to serve, especially given the ferocity of criticism one is going to find (and this is coming from a reasonably critical person–but hardly an excessively critical person).

I’m not exactly sure where I get it from, but I often tend to refer to women as ladies and men as gentlemen when I am talking about them to others. I tend to think of people as worthy of respect until and unless they prove themselves otherwise. I try to be a fair and just judge of the character of others–it is easier to be kind when one understand motives and worldview. I would hope that it would not be too hard for people to think of me as a gentleman either. After all, status is not particularly useful if it is not recognized by others, nor is it useful for others to give respect and eschew criticism unless your status serves their goals and interests. This requires that we think beyond ourselves and think of others as well. What is our contribution to others–the better our own contribution, the easier it is for others to respect us and reward us.

I would be curious to hear from others about their own expectations of respect and honor. Who is it that we tend to expect to honor and respect us the most? Who disappoints us the most when they fail to respect us as we think we deserve? Who tends to respect us the most? These are questions that I find to be deeply interesting. It is far easier to respect those who are polite and proper, and who respect us. It is likewise difficult for us to respect those who either view us with contempt or who we feel are judging us. But often what we feel is not particularly relevant to the duties we have–sometimes we just have to respect others, cut them some slack, and understand that most people live under a fair amount of pressure and adjust our tolerance accordingly. That is, though, far easier said than done.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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4 Responses to Ladies And Gentlemen

  1. Sonya says:

    I tend to expect it most from anyone who wants to come into my home or spend time with me or my children. I’m most disappointed when someone I have a lot of respect for displays blatant disrespect for me. As for who tends to respect me the most? I would say the people who have a professional/business-only relationship with me tend to respect me most. That’s the way it seems anyway.

    • I would agree with you on all counts. I find business relationships to be generally full of respect, and I also find waitresses and waiters to be generally respectful. I tend to be disappointed when there isn’t any reciprocity between my respect and the respect that others have for me as well, though I imagine the same is true the other way as well, given that I may not be the type of person who some might see as respectful in general.

  2. This blog elicits serious thought. We are created in the image and likeness of God and are to follow the example of Christ, who stated that if we saw Him, we also saw the Father. They were mirror images. The Apostle Paul elaborated by stating that we are not our own once we are baptized; it is Christ who lives within us through the holy spirit. This means that we are not to take the way people treat us personally; the respect they render or the disrepectful way they treat us is really directed toward our Creator, not us. We are to obey the mandate given by Jesus in the Gospels to do well to those who treat us badly. It is God who repays; vengeance is solely His domain. This–as you stated so well–is much easier said than done. But if we are really the Christians we say we are, we have to swallow our pride, bite our tongues, resist our natural urges and redirect our thoughts. We are commanded to take the high road at all times–with the humility of a true servant. This is what will make us acceptable to the One whose opinion of us will really matter when all is said and done.

    • That’s very true. The way that other people treat us doesn’t really tell us anything about ourselves; it tells us how others are and how they view us, but it is what we do in our own conversation and conduct that tells us and others (including God) what we are made of. Being a person who tends to think of myself as the equal of everyone else, and tends to think of myself as worthy of respect, I tend to automatically treat others with a fair amount of respect. I certainly don’t tend to treat others with deference, but respect is something I consider very important.

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