What Exactly is Respect?

As generations come and go, certain values have remained vital to the maintenance of order. Respect is one of them.

For Nala in Mombasa, Kenya, the traditional ‘hujambo’ has become an inherent part of her life. For her, as with many Kenyans, acknowledging others is a norm. She goes about with the timeless words of her grandmother in her head, Treat others as you want to be treated. That’s her principle for living.

This is respect; treating others as you want to be treated. While respect may be considered as giving regard to someone due to some quality or achievement, it rings truer from the lips of Nala’s grandma.

Respect includes more than regard for achievements; that is acknowledgement. Acknowledgement is awe for a person’s outstanding attributes. If we show regard to people because of their achievements, what do we show to those without (visible) achievements? That is where respect comes in.

Elders are the primary recipients of respect in most societies. Respect for them is often initiated by their knowledge of real issues and the wisdom they have gained from these experiences. In Africa, elders are held in high esteem. Hence, the bulk of respect-based traditions is hinged around them. Achievements regardless, older people are held in high regard.

The level of regard for the elderly can be considered the commonest measure of respect in some communities. In many African communities for example, the younger people are happy to give up their seats for older people when there aren’t enough seats to go round.

Similarly, respect is reciprocal. The young also deserve respect. If people should be accorded respect regardless of their attributes or achievements, it is more noticeable and more valuable when extended to younger people, particularly when there is hardly any expectation or reward. Hence, respect that is shown by the elderly to younger persons is more appreciated.

Those who show respect pave their road towards success.

Respectful people are always at an advantage over others who are less respectful or outrightly disrespectful. They enjoy commendations and favourable recommendations even when they are not present. In a typical African society like Nala’s Mombasa, respect without strings reflects a rich personal value system and depth of selflessness.

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