What is Respect?

By | September 26, 2022

[September 26, 2022]  “The only way to make this world a better place is to respect each other.”  I believe that is false.  I believe that we should respect only those who have earned it.  If we respect everybody randomly, then what use is respect?  Respect is limited to that category of people who have earned respect in some visible, specific manner.

Respect doesn’t mean you have to like someone or a group.  But it does require that we acknowledge their importance and the successes achieved.  This means we must be capable of prudent judgment and correctly recognize someone’s good deeds, authority, and value.  Therefore, respect is a deep admiration for someone based on their noteworthy qualities.

The idea of common decency between people is not the same as respect.  Definitions actually matter.  At a recent school board meeting I attended and wrote about yesterday (see link), I heard board members talk about the importance of giving respect to students.  They use “the need for respect” to justify mandating new school policies.  These policies require us to give everyone respect.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that you cannot force me to respect you.  That is simply not possible.  There’s an old and correct saying: “Respect isn’t something that is demanded; it’s earned.”  And respect can be lost.  If you are corrupt, weak, a cheat, a liar, a thief, or a coward, you will garner no respect from others.  That is the human way, and that will never change.

I give everyone a basic level of courtesy, and from that point on, you must earn my respect and then work to maintain it.  Respect is also reciprocal; it won’t be given to someone who isn’t also showing the proper respect to others in return.  That is why it is essential that we not confuse courtesy and compassion with the concept of respect.

The best way to conceptualize respect is to ask yourself how things could be great if they were great for you and if you were taking care of yourself properly.  Take care of yourself as if you have value, and then work to extend that courtesy to everyone else.  That is respect.


Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

22 thoughts on “What is Respect?

  1. Purse 5

    Excellent article and I would like to see more articles too, but also on the basic terms we use in everyday life but the meanings have been morphed or distorted. Or maybe the word highjacked is better. Great website you have here, Gen. Satterfield.

    1. Bryan Z. Lee

      Purse5, this is why we are regular readers of this leadership website and the forum as well. You can learn a lot in just a few minutes but it takes a bit of brain power to do it. Read this blog often and when you can, get Gen. Satterfield’s book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq.”

  2. McStompie

    Classic article from Gen. Satterfield and I’m proud to be on his leadership forum.

  3. Tom Bushmaster

    Gen. Satterfield has given us a truly classic here by explaining “respect” as a concept. Today, there is little meaning to the word because it has been bacterized to mean too many things like compassion and politeness. Gen.S. gives us a knock down, drag out review of the idea and one we should adopt without remorse.

    1. H. M. Longstreet

      True enough Tom. Loved the article as well. This article is an example of one that made me think… had to read it 3 times to really get his meaning.

      1. Good Dog

        Me too, HM. Occasionally an article hits home and this is one of them. I had to read it a couple times to get his full meaning.

      2. Northeast

        Thanks Tom and others for giving this article a thumbs up. 👍
        I want to add that this is an excellent reason to read more about leadership. And reading this blog does just that.

    1. Army Captain

      I believe the idea of ‘respect’ is grossly misused and is, like Gen. Satterfield says, folks use it to mean something entirely different and thus the idea is warped. Respect is not courtesy and compassion (the latter often being false compassion).

  4. JT Patterson

    We develop great respect for people we consider exemplary and lose respect for those we discover to be lazy; we may also come to believe that, at some level, all people are worthy of respect.

    1. Chuck USA

      “As children we are taught (one hopes) to respect our parents, teachers, and elders, school rules and traffic laws, family and cultural traditions, other people’s feelings and rights, our country’s flag and leaders, the truth and people’s differing opinions. … Although a wide variety of things are said to deserve respect, contemporary philosophical interest in respect has overwhelmingly been focused on respect for persons, the idea that all persons should be treated with respect simply because they are persons.” https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/respect/

      1. Dead Pool Guy

        Explain ‘respect’ to kids and adults because important for us all to understand its real meaning.

  5. The Kid 1945

    The word respect comes from the Latin word “respectus” meaning attention, regard, or consideration. It can be defined as “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability“. This is a very important component of both personal identity and interpersonal relationships.

    1. Pumpkin Spice

      Correct, but as the original person who wrote this, but respect is NOT a basic human right.

    2. Unwoke Dude

      Having sincere respect for someone means you don’t say one thing to his or her face and another in secret.

  6. lydia truman

    Gen. Satterfield, I must say I enjoyed this article because it opened my eyes a bit. I have misused the term “respect” often. I’ll be more careful. But as I listen to others, I too see them misusing it.

    1. Rev. Michael Cain

      Same here, new way of thinking but that is why I read this blog …. to get new ideas and clarity. 😊

      1. Willie Strumburger

        — and Lynn and Rev Cain, I too read this blog for many reasons but for clarity is the main reason. And, guys don’t forget to purchase Gen. Satterfield’s book “Our Longest Year in Iraq.” And no I don’t get a kickback, I just love the book. A story on every page.


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