“My way of being polite or however it’s… well, it’s the only way I have of showing you that I like you: I’m showing respect.”
– Simon Tam, Firefly
Episode 7, “Jaynestown”
It is my firm belief that healthy relationships need both affection and respect.
I see a lot of myself in the character of Simon Tam. We both grew up comfortable, we have sisters we’d do anything for, we have friends who are like family, and we believe in a bit of politeness and propriety in a relationship. I can also see myself in how he stutters and stumbles as he tries to make a connection with a wonderful woman, by the name of Kaylee, who wants him. She’s a bit less restrained than him, and she’s a bit confused by his behavior, how they get along and like each other, but then he goes all stiff. She doesn’t see the value in his behavior until she asks and he can explain it with the above words.
This quote has stayed with me ever since I first heard it. I mean, you see people in all sorts of unhappy relationships, or suffering from the pain of one that ended badly, or hesitant about new relationships because of how old ones went, etc. A wildly recurring thread in these is some level of disrespect. Sometimes it’s blatant, and sometimes it’s more subtle. And it begs the question: how much can you truly love someone if you don’t respect them? And how much love can you truly have for someone who does not respect you?
Now, I know it’s not always that clear-cut. Life is messy, people have differing interests and priorities, and they have disagreements all the time. But “respect” is not the same as giving people blank checks, and never, say, teasing them in good fun or whatever. It also doesn’t just mean showering them with compliments and attention and such. That’s just going through the motions.
Respect, to me, is simply treating people as if they have value, or, rather, treating people in accordance to the value they do already possess.
If you value your spouse/significant other, for instance, then you don’t cheat on them, or lie to them, or pressure them into anything they’re uncomfortable with. Instead, you communicate with them, listen to them, help them, and, above all, stay true to them.
If you value your friends and your family, you are nice to them and you are there for them in times of trouble.
If you value strangers, you are courteous to them and helpful in those small ways you notice they need (like all the people at work who hold the door open when I’m trundling through with my cart, thank you).
If you value your parents, you keep in touch with them, and you listen to them.
If you value your teachers and other leaders, you listen to them.
That sort of thing.
Respect is a profound measure of how much someone actually likes you, because it shows how much they value you, and what one values is what one loves.
What do you think?