Respect Vs. Compassion

(originally posted on on 11/8/14)

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the concepts of Respect and Compassion. Specifically, I have been thinking about them in terms of how they relate to the challenging relationships I have in my life, relationships that are nearly impossible to walk away from. Since these relationships are here to stay, I must find a way to come to terms with them.

Learning how to deal with contentious, long-term relationships has given me many opportunities for personal growth over the last few years. I say that a little tongue in cheek, of course, but I have truly looked for ways to let these contentious relationships make me a better person. After all, it is not how you deal with the good things in your life that determines your character, it is how you deal with the negative things that inevitably show up from time to time. It’s easy to behave with grace when life is going well, not so much when shit continually hits the fan. So how do I learn from these experiences, these painful relationships, and grow from them?

This is where the idea of respect and compassion comes in. The lesson I have learned over and over during that past few years is that compassion is king. I want to approach the world with compassion. I want to find compassion in my heart for those who speak ill of me or do things to harm me or those I love. It is not easy to find this compassion, but if I can distance myself from the relationship a bit, if I can disengage as much as possible, and step back a bit from the hurt, I can more easily find compassion and extend compassion. Compassion not only helps to mitigate disharmony, but really it just makes me feel better. The bottom line is compassion is good for my heart, so practicing compassion is kind of a no-brainer.

But what about respect? Are compassion and respect the same things? I sometimes see them used interchangeably, but I wonder if that is true. Perhaps it is just a question of semantics. But respect seems to me something that has to be earned, whereas compassion is something I can extend to anyone regardless of their perceived worthiness. I can have compassion for someone who speaks harshly about me online, but I don’t necessarily need to respect them.

What are your thoughts about respect and compassion? Are they the same thing? Two sides of the same coin? Or is one earned, while the other is freely given?