RESPECT: Earned Or Demanded?

Note: This post is not an attempt to justify or condemn the behavior of both age groups. But rather I am aiming to look at this issue as objectively as possible. (Though I may fail at that)

Respect is earned, not given or demanded” or so my elders always say when I was growing up. Now that I am grown up to an extent, I can see the double standards or hypocrisy in that saying. They tell us that in order for us to be respected, we have to do something worthy of respect (the earning) but they expect us to respect them just because they are older (the demand).

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not disrespectful neither am I strictly respectful, I do not demand respect just because I may be older than you. I only ask that you treat me as your equal but that you, please, do not do anything to disrespect me. The notion that I have to show you respect just because you are older is dumb. You could be an alcoholic, a wife-beater, maybe abuse your kids, cheat on your wife and such, but I am supposed to respect you because you are older than me. Or that I should greet every elder I see on my way because “you are older and therefore should be given respect”.

“Respect yourself and others will respect you.”

“If you want to be respected by others,
the great thing is to respect yourself.
Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky,

I don’t need you to respect me before I respect you, I just need you to respect yourself because I can’t, won’t and shall not respect a man who doesn’t respect himself.

I was in the bus going home sometime back, and the conductor who normally collects the fare from passengers was emphasizing that he didn’t have change. So there was a man behind me (how old? I don’t know but maybe 15 years older than me) who had change so I asked him to give me his money since I didn’t have change. So he gives me his money, with his right hand, and I stretch to collect it, with my left hand (I should point out that in my country, Nigeria, our elders view giving or collecting anything with your left hand is a sign of respect, their view and not mine) even though I was not even aware due to the sitting conditions in the bus and my right hand was at an uncomfortable angle and I couldn’t make use of it. The man withdrew his hand and went on to try to embarrass me that I was not trained well. Well, I did the only obvious thing; I hissed in my seat very loudly and said “If it was Wizkid or Davido who gave you a million naira check with his left hand, will you even say anything?”. The other passengers bust out laughing and so began a war of words between the youth and elders in the bus. This went on for about 10 minutes while I kept quiet. When they showed no sign of slowing down, I said the only sensible thing left to say since it was I who caused it anyway. I said “You elders are the reason this country is the way it is today, do not expect me to respect you when you sat by and did nothing while the country was being looted.” And that quieted them down a bit though I still got the evil eye now and then till I got down from the bus.

I am not saying what I did was right, but I am not going to say it was wrong. I did what I had to do because some dude felt I was doing something wrong and decided to embarrass me.

So my question is this; do you just respect someone because they are older than you, even though that person doesn’t respect himself? Or is respect actually earned by everybody of all ages?

I refuse to be a part of that double standard and if that pisses you off, well, the problem is yours and not mine.



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