On Relationship: Friendship and Respect

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Published on: September 18, 2006

Most of the times when people demand respect they mean it to based on friendship, to be treated equally. But sometimes many people mistake respect to be based on inequality, often accompanied by special previlages. If that is the prevailing understanding of respect then I want to describe how the relationship between two people would look like. But first, what do I mean by friendship and respect.

Friendship between two people is about being open, honest, forgiving, having argmuents, supporting each other, it is about being EQUAL. There could be difference of opinion, difference of ideas, one person can make the other person angry, but inspite of all those they are honest and support each other and be there for one another. Establishing friendship is about establishing EQUALITY. Equality is the essensce of friendship. If any of these does not hold, then the relationship is not friendship, but something else (could be acquantaince, co-worker, pupil, ….etc).

Respect towards one person means holding that person in high esteem. Whatever that person say or do can go unquestioned, it is taken as given, to some extent taken on the basis of belief or faith. The person who respect the other feels inferior w.r.t to the other. When the question of respect comes in a relationship, then as a consequence there is inequality between the people in that relationship. Establishing respect in a relationship is all about establishing inequality.

By their inherent nature these two aspects conflict each other. If we want friendship then we
can cannot hope to have respect. If we want respect then we cannot hope to have friendship. We have to chose one or the other. What I am trying to do is describe the relations: what happens when we go for one or the other. The choice is ours, we are solely responsible of what we choose to do.

When both want friendship, then there is no problem.

When both want respect, then clearly it is a clash of ego. We can expect the relationship to be filled with friction and conflict. Basically both of them are trying to establish inequality, with one on top of the other. It is ones authority over the other. They are both competing for the same higher position, but only one can previal. It is a zero-sum situation. One of them wins other person loses. This relationship will be difficult.

The situation is more complex when there is a mix. We need to go into more details. We need to know who wants and who offers. In a relationship One person can either want(expect) friendship or offer friendship. Similarly, the other person can want(expect) respect or offer respect. Combination of these leads to the following four situations:

– When one wants friendship and other wants respect, both will be dissapointed and hurt. The person who wants friendship is dissapointed with lack of enthusiasm from the other. The person
who wants respect is hurt becuase the other person does not care about this persons status or accomplishments. This person wants to establish superiorty but the other person wants to establish equality. This combination usually leads to friction, uneasiness and conflict.

– When one wants friendship and other offers respect, then the person wanting friendship is embarressed and the person offering respect might be dissapointed. But this combination is usually ok, only that in the long-run one wanting friendship is dissapointed.

– When one offers friendship and other wants respect, then the person expecting respect is dissapointed & hurt. The person offering friendship might be ok, but the person expecting respect gets irritated by the other persons need to establish equality.

– When one offers friendship and other offers respect, then this combination is usually ok, in the long run they might turn out to be friends.

Does it mean, the relationship between people should always be friendship. Well it depends want one expects or wants and what consequences they can live with.

Till now the description was about relationship between two people. Now, should a person always seek respect or should a person always seek friendship? Well the answer is not so simple. It depends on the context of the relationship. Relationships are always set in some larger context: professional, personal, family, marriage, travel…etc Depending on the context, friendship or respect based relationship could be beneficial. e.g. for relationship between a child and and a parent. This should be based on respect when the childern are young. There is certainly an inequality between an adult and a child. If this relation is based on friendship, then the child is under pressure and could be detrimental for the childs grown. But, When they grow up the respect should gradually evolve into friendship.

Remember the saying -“it is lonely at the top”- there is some truth in it. One who always wants respect and if he/she succeedes, then inequality triumphs and person will be very lonely. It is our decision to make, but first know the consequences.

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