Lessons in Manhood
Lesson 7: Respect
Squatch, if your mother and I have done any good between when you were born and when you’re able to read this, then you’ve already learned about respect. But just in case I’ve forgotten anything or something slipped through, let’s review, shall we?
One of the things I’ve noticed being here in Oklahoma is that a lot of the kids around here are taught to be respectful while growing up. Kind of.
Plenty of my students were taught what they consider to be respect, but not necessarily what I consider to be respect. A lot of them call me sir, answer questions “Yes sir” and “No sir,” and sir the heck out of everything in general. But some of these students are the same ones who I catch texting on their phones while we’re in the middle of talking about stuff in class.
See Squatch, sir and ma’am are fine. But learning to call people sir and ma’am isn’t respect. Those words aren’t signs of respect—they’re signs of subordination. You call someone “sir” because you fall below him on the organizational chart, not because you respect him. Plenty of soldiers call their superior sir, but I know from talking to my share of soldiers that a good chunk of them think he’s a Grade A asshat.
In short, what you say doesn’t mean shit. It’s your actions that show respect, Squatch—not your words.
Think about it for a second. Chances are, the people you might have the most respect for are probably your closest friends. Do you call many of them sir or ma’am? If you do, we’ve got another talk to have in private, because you’re just weird. But the chances are that you don’t, but the way you show them respect is in the way you act around them.
Listening is a sign of respect. When someone’s talking, you show them respect by listening to what they’re saying. You’re not playing on your phone or talking to someone else or thinking about what you’re going to say next. You’re letting their words enter your headspace through your earholes while your mouthhole isn’t moving. That’s respectful.
Honesty is also a sign of respect. You don’t lie to people you respect. Save that for the douches and assholes in your life. Lie to them. Get it all out. Be honest with the people you respect.
Helping out is respect. If someone asks you to do something, it’s the respectful thing to do to help them out if you can. Giving assistance to people you don’t even know through donating time or money is respectful, too. If you respect someone, then you try to make their lives a little easier by putting yourself aside for a little bit*.
*Be careful on that, though. See the last Lesson on Manhood.
Politeness is a part of respect, too, but it’s not a substitute. Sir and ma’am are polite, just like please and thank you, but it doesn’t mean you respect anyone. Respect is what you do.
And while we’re on it, Squatch, I want to say that respect is a two-way street. You might want to be respected—who doesn’t?—but you have to give respect to earn it. It’s generally a good idea to show respect to your elders and your superiors—bosses, teachers, *ahem* parents—but that also should go both ways.
You show respect to the people who earn it. Being alive longer than me doesn’t automatically mean people earn my respect. Being put in charge of me doesn’t mean you deserve respect. If you want respect, you have to give it. So Squatch, if your boss one day is disrespectful, find another job. If your teacher is disrespectful, well, come talk to me and your mom and we’ll try to get it straightened out. But if we don’t, I can’t see that it’s unreasonable for you to raise a little hell every once in a while. Don’t show those peckerhead the respect they don’t deserve.
All that being said, Men default to showing respect. When you first meet someone, be respectful. Be polite, but also be respectful. When they lose their right to respect by treating you like shit, then you can drop the show, but until that point, a Man shows people respect, because a Man wants to be respected. And a Man knows that in order to get respect, you have to show it.
One last note before we go, Squatch. Your mom and I deserve respect. We give you food, clothing, shelter, and every other damn thing you could need. Consider it rent. You don’t want to know what happens if you don’t pay your rent.