by Danny Brooks
Jussie Smollett, Brett Kavanaugh, R. Kelly, and that MAGA hat kid from Covington Catholic. If naming off those people already stirred up some emotions then welcome to the club. It was hard to make it through this year without being caught up in the drama of these sensational news stories. So many heated online debates followed. Students talked to other students at school, friends talked to friends, and coworkers talked to each other trying to figure out if these people were victims, criminals, or falsely accused. I heard conversations everywhere.
When we talk about relationships in schools, respect and trust come up a lot. Our students (maybe you yourself if you have had us in class!) make lists of what they want out of a relationship. Among the most common answers are things like respect, trust, loyalty, no cheating, faithfulness, etc. I’m going to narrow it down to Respect, Trust, and Truth. So why did I bring up the sensational news stories? Because I think how people approach things like that are similar to how they deal with their relationships.
People say “respect is earned”. The thing is, most people want respect from other people at all times whether it’s been earned or lost or even if they just met. So I think that “respect is earned” is a crappy saying! Respect isn’t earned, it should be given to every human because all of us have innate value. How many times have you heard someone disrespect someone else based off of a surface judgment before they know anything about a person. I’ve heard that throughout my whole life and I’ve never heard it worse than with some of these news stories. I heard people say they wanted to bash heads in before they even got the full stories and all of their facts straight.
So Respect is deserved, but trust is earned. Just because I’m respectful to someone doesn’t mean I need to believe them. Everyone is broken and messed up in their own ways, including me. One of my favorite quotes about humans is that being a human “is both honor enough to raise the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth.” That means people are capable of great good and great evil and everything in between. I’ve seen people taken advantage of and hurt because they were naive to the fact that there are bad people out there. In the news stories I mentioned, sometimes people are unwilling to think that someone they like is capable of lying or doing bad. Trust should be earned over time when you see that a person is going to respect you, be who they say they are, and tell you the truth. That’s why I say trust is earned. It’s possible to respect someone without having full trust in them yet. Most people either fully trusted and fully respected the people in these news stories or they didn’t trust them at all which led to disrespecting them. Why can’t we respect someone even if we’re still figuring out if we can trust them? Is it a good idea to fully trust someone you only know over internet or social media and haven’t ever met? That’s an obvious no, but sometimes it’s tempting for us to do this with celebrities that we really like.
Finally, if respect is deserved and trust is earned, the truth is hard to figure out sometimes. In a relationship with someone you respect, you build trust and try to give them the benefit of the doubt. We can’t go around assuming everyone is a liar and out to get us! That’s called paranoia. Sometimes in a relationship we need to figure out if we can trust someone and ask them for the hard truth. Maybe you heard something about them from someone else. Maybe they said something that you took as offensive. You might have to challenge them on that. Just remember that this country’s justice system was founded on innocent until proven guilty. Sadly, sometimes we get put on the stand and we have to defend ourselves from someone who thinks we’re guilty before they even know the story! Have you ever been falsely accused of something? How did you feel? Did you feel listened to? Did you feel respected? Think of some of the people in the news stories I mentioned and imagine yourself in their shoes. Could you imagine if you actually were innocent, but thousands or millions were smearing your name all over the internet?
Some people really do bad things. Other people are falsely accused, attacked, and greatly disrespected. I’m not going to tell you which is which; you have to decide that for yourself! Just remember: Respect is deserved, Trust is earned, and the Truth is hard to figure out sometimes, but it’s worth it!
I like how you broke this down. In our world, respect can be a very complex thing. I believe there are levels of respect that only time can define. For example, When I meet someone for the first time and know nothing about them, they deserve my respect on that initial meeting level. It’s almost like a “benefit of the doubt” respect, a “I have no reason not to respect you” kind of attitude. As time goes by and you have the opportunity to get to know that person more, you could develop a genuine respect for them based on positive experiences and facts or you could actually begin to lose respect for them if you were to see negative behaviors. At any rate, time is the key to figuring out truth. Without time, you rob yourself of seeing people in multiple settings, situations and opportunities to make healthy choices. By respecting others, you show that you respect yourself; that you are able to be the bigger person and do what is right despite the behaviors of the world around you. If exposed to behaviors that are not respect-worthy, that is the time to put your trust on hold and decide if this relationship will contribute to your goals or hold you back and cause you heartache.