When I’m teaching beginning English learners about verbs, I categorize them into 4 basic types; state, do, feel, and think.
A state verb is basic ‘to be’; I am (a woman, a mother, a daughter, a teacher, alive), I am — years old, I live in –. Your basic states of being…
A do verb is whatever you do…. Run, eat, play, sleep, etc. Feel verbs are happy, like, love, angry, wishful, etc. And a think verb is along the lines of want, plan, consider, believe.
So, what is respect? For me, respect is a think. Respectful can be a feel or a do, or even a state, but actual respect is a think.
And along the lines of you can’t love anyone else until you love yourself first, I believe that you can’t respect someone else until you respect yourself.
So how would I define respect? I find it difficult to define think verbs without using variations of the word, but if I had to choose one synonym it would be equality.
When I believe that the life of another is equal to mine, I respect that life. Which, when turned around, if I believe that someone else’s life has more worth than mine, I cannot fully respect myself. If I believe that my life has more value than someone else’s, I can also not fully respect myself, because then I have subscribed to a value system that ranks life value, which automatically places me on a spectrum, in which I can be less than, putting me right back at unable to fully respect myself.
So, in my definition,
Respect is the belief of equal value of life, its states, thoughts, feelings, and actions.
When I feel respected I feel as if I am seen with equal value. When I feel disrespected, I feel that I am seen as having less value, by the other person.
This concept of respect, it is something I think about a lot. I’ve been through enough situations, seen enough abuse in my life, that I’m constantly trying to figure out how to respect myself and others, without being victimized.
Can someone be respectful without having respect? Yes. Doing a respectful action is part of social manners. Someone can know and perform all the social manners without having ‘the think’ of respect for the other people they are performing those manners around. Abusers use that skill very, very well.
Abusers are sure to point out all the “nice” or “good” things they do, trying to prove they’re a good person. Look at this thing I did. I do everything for you. Watch me do this good thing, see I’m good. I got this for you. I did that for you. I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking. I would never hurt you, remember all those good things I do? Those prove what a good person I am.
But see, abusers don’t respect themselves or the people they abuse. They’re trying to stay on top to prove they’re not less than anyone else. There’s a deep need to be seen as being good, that people who respect themselves and others don’t have. In my experience, people with high levels of respect don’t have to point out the good they do. They hardly even recognize their respectful behavior as anything but just what should be done. There’s no need within themselves to prove they are good, they just are good. It becomes a state verb, not just a think verb.
Abusers, in my opinion, have subscribed to a rather stark value system; one with very few steps between, a rather black and white system. They need to feel as if they are seen at the top of that system, because they feel that they’re not. They make sure to use more, have more, be more so they aren’t seen as less.
And they see their victims as lower. They test, and then pick people that have more respect, who subscribe to a much different view of the value system. Isn’t that the crazy thing, I think to myself all the time; the people who respect others, who value the people around them, treat people well, fairly, respectfully, those are the people preyed on by abusers.
Truly, I think that if we subscribe to a value system on life at all, we are all, at some point or another, within a wide range of abuser and victim. But, it has really struck me that the people who respect the lives of others, treat others the way they want to be treated, are caring, empathetic, giving, those are the people most often targeted by abusers for relationships.
It’s a weird kind of circle, abusers feel afraid of being less, so they make others feel less, to feel like they are more. If you stay, you are clearly less because the abusiveness is tolerated. But….. at the beginning, it’s tolerated because of the very respect for others that makes them a target.
And if you show any kind of equality, then they must knock you down to make sure you are less. Insults become more personal, more derogatory. Threats become more realistic. And, I’m sorry’s become more frequent.
Sociopaths and narcissists aside, the abuser feels bad for being abusive, making them feel bad about themselves, perpetuating the need to make you feel bad, so they can feel good, which cycles around and around and around.
The nice side of an abuser can only be seen for a limited time though. An abuser can only allow themselves to be seen as not having the power for short amounts of time. Those short amounts of time are a manipulation, a way to stop the consequence of losing their victim; win them over again, prove how good they are again, be equal again.; because they want the respect, from their victim, that they can’t give themselves.
That respect then becomes demanded for. Respect me. Look at everything I do. I’ve been good, now respect me. I’ve been respectful, respect me. Respect me -or I won’t do these things -or I’ll take these things away -or I’ll make you fear me. Fear=respect right?
Once those cycles have repeated enough….. it can, and often does become more than threats, more than derogatory slights.
People who haven’t seen these cycles, in all their stages and multiple wraps around a relationship, struggle to understand. But it really comes down to value, equality, and respect.
I continue to stretch out and increase the many increments of the value system, trying to get as close to the zero point on this half-life depreciation. I meditate and pray for help to respect myself, by seeing the intrinsic value of all life around me, as well as preserving my self-respect by not allowing others to treat me as less than.
I’m not finding it very easy. Power is a corrupter for those who don’t respect themselves or others. I do not seek out power. Others see that as weakness. I am open about my short-comings, because I want to learn, not because I think I am less than, but others see that as a weakness. They cannot see their own faults, and so shift the repercussions of their faults to me, blaming me, saying she even says she has faults, this is her fault.
Because I do not seek out power, does not mean I don’t have power.
I have my power, my control of self. I do not need to control others, because I understand that any form of trying to control someone else, is abuse. But others see that as weakness.
I am not weak.
I keep getting up, and I learn. I learn and I grow. I have been getting stronger and stronger.
Just like learning a language requires repetition, practical experience, and meaningful use, so does truly learning respect.
I’m confident I can say, I respect me.
I respect you too, so understand that means that I won’t accept your disrespect of me or others.
I’ve spent a life time earning my own respect through giving, forgiveness, educating myself, kindness, tolerance, and doing my best to understand even those people who have hurt me terribly. I’m not perfect. I still have trouble fully shaking the value system. I have spent a lot of time working through that system to get where I am now. I still have much to learn; but I respect myself enough to understand I don’t know it all. I respect others enough to know that I can learn from them, I can talk with them, I can share with them, without ever needing to hurt them, belittle them, or make them feel less than.
This is my life in words. I keep writing about abuse, learning, traveling, and being me. Glimpses into my head means glimpses into my progressions through healing. It’s a freaking process man.
Maybe someone out there today needs to read that they’re not alone in trying to understand respect.
Maybe it was watching the special on the Dalai Lama….. maybe it’s just my life right now……
Whatever it is,
Light and love to you all.