Teach Respect With Respect

Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear.
Albert Camus
A couple days ago, the net went into a buzz over the “Mother of the Year,” a woman who found out her son was involved in the Baltimore Riots. She went to where he was and started teaching the young man “discipline.” That wasn’t a lesson in discipline; it was a lesson in violence.

We complain about the violent nature of society, about men who resort to violence as a way to solve problems or to “inspire” respect. We see it in the police officer who enforces respect of the law through fear, the guy down the street who wants his rights respected through intimidation, the husband who expects respect in his home through domestic violence, or the mother who teaches her son respect by beating it into him.

And that’s where the problem starts. Most violent men learn to equate violence and respect, not in the streets, but at home while they were still kids. The belt or the “chancleta” (flip-flops) don’t teach respect, they teach fear. So we end up with men whose fear of getting caught doing the wrong thing is greater than their love of doing the right thing. We don’t want to create good men but simply to punish the bad out of them. 

That doesn’t work.

Unless men are taught about respect with respect, their view of what respect is will be distorted. We will end up with men who don’t really care about doing what’s right, but care about not getting caught doing what’s wrong. We will end up with men who think that you have to beat respect into your loved ones, as they assume that fear and respect is the same thing.

Does this mean we shouldn’t punish those who do wrong? That we should accept unacceptable behavior? No. Wrong should never be accepted or condoned. But as a man, I have no right to demean a person in their own eyes, I have no right to undermine a person’s self-respect in order for them to respect me.

Only my enemies should fear me, not my loved ones.

Maybe if we focused more on what a man can do right than what he is doing wrong, maybe, just maybe, we might end up with men doing more right than wrong. If we teach this lesson to our boys, we might end up with men who strive to be more.

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