THE TRUE MEANING OF RESPECT
I do not believe the definition or meaning of respect ever changes. Unfortunately, many people have different interpretations of what the definition of respect is, mostly due to what they were taught it means, and through reading what others have said about it. It is true that many children in modern times do not have respect instilled in them, but it is important to grasp the true meaning.
I think that even a great many Martial Artists do not really understand the original meaning of the word. The etymology of the term comes from the Latin “respectus,” which is the past participle of “respicere.” This means to “regard,” or “look back at.” The Latin term “specere” means to “look at” as in the words spectacle and spectator.
To respect something or someone is simply accomplished by the observer looking at the object or person, and deciding in their own mind if they see any value or worth. In many cases, it is looking back on the history, or past deeds, and finding value in where an object comes from (enhancing its worth), or what a person has done.
In this regard, respect is in the eye of the beholder, and can only be possessed within your own mind based on what you value. Contrary to common slang, it is really not something that we “give” or “get.” We cannot “demand” it or “earn” it, because it is not an object to be passed around. These are idioms that misrepresent the true nature of the term respect. Many people use those terms and phrases because we have heard them before, and they made sense to us. However, they really do not speak accurately to the true nature of what it means to respect someone.
Young people often do not respect others, nor do they display a respectful manner or attitude because they have not been taught the value of things. They don’t take care of personal property because they usually don’t have to work hard to earn the money to buy it, or replace it when it is lost or damaged. They don’t treat other people with kindness or courtesy because they don’t value friendship, and don’t understand what it means to be a good friend. They don’t respect their elders and teachers because they don’t value the knowledge and experience that we have to offer them.
Respect is a constant that remains the same, but what people value that leads them to feel a sense of respect for someone or something might change. It usually changes with age, maturity, and the experience of life when failure to observe the value of things creates hardships for one’s self. Some people never learn this lesson. The Martial Art is an education about life where the value of all things is at its core – – especially knowledge, education, and people. Thus, respect is essential to who we are, but it dwells within us, and can only be expressed through words and actions that share how you feel.
Chief Master Darwin J. Eisenhart – Taekwondo 7th Dan with the United States Chung Do Kwan Association