Hierarchy of Respect

As modern/postmodern beings, we don’t seem to like the concept of an Authority Figure. Especially,  in the area of parenting. God forbid that we should ever seem to be authoritarian parents who might be seen as not giving our children the respect we think they deserve. Oftentimes, there is even equality in status between a parent and child, if not proclaimed, at least in practice. The opposite extreme can end up, of course, being just as destructive. A totalitarian home where dictator parents rule with an iron fist will only breed rebellion and suppress learning.

So as we see that extremes beget mistakes, we begin to look at the healthy balance of the hierarchy of respect. We understand that being alive we garner a base level of respect, in the sense that you do not snuff out life where it is not needed. You have an injured bird, you don’t, or shouldn’t spend an afternoon burning ants with a spy glass. We respect life even at its most base form, or at least we know we should. The levels of respect are also cumulative. You would show that same level of respect to a human and likely more. Every person deserves a certain amount of respect and for the most part we would agree on this, at least in theory. Even if I do not know someone personally, I should not shoulder them aside, spit in their eye, or run them over at the cross walk in order to save a few moments of my time. This is because they are human and alive and deserve more respect than that.

This concept holds and continues as the relationship gets closer to the originator of the respect. If the subject in question is known personally to you then you would afford them even more respect. Not only would you NOT run them over at a cross walk, but you would go so far as to smile at them and wave, imparting some good will to them as you pass. You might even find yourself giving of your time or emotions to them, because as you have a certain closer relation to them, you will also afford them , in greater degree, a portion of your respect.

Then you take this idea further, and you examine what further respect you would then hold for relations, close friends, closer family members or even children. We then begin to realize that yes, no matter how permissive or authoritarian we are in parenting, we still will afford our children respect, and we must, lest we treat them worse than strangers, than animals. But this realization goes further than the fact that we must respect our children. It paves the way for hierarchical respect which allows that while I, of course, must respect my child, that respect is , by definition, going to be different  from the respect I have for a sibling, spouse, or even an elder or parent. Defining exactly what that difference is will be the sanctification challenge in ever parent’s life going forward.