3P Random Reflections Blog
I recently came across the concept of "Owed Respect" versus "Earned Respect". It’s in reference to how leaders engage with employees, but for me it points to a deeper
understanding that can be applied between any two people, in any moment.
Owed Respect is realizing and recognizing our common humanity.
When we interact with anyone, no matter the person, we can always afford them the basic dignity of being human. We can always be mature and respectful, and offer our goodwill.
Earned Respect speaks more to specific behaviours. It’s another layer of how we navigate the relationship beyond what is owed. In business terms it could be something like affording more trust and responsibility
to those who have been more habitually reliable.
In my own words, I would explain Owed Respect as being able to see the beauty or
divinity or miracle in the other person's humanity… the part or essence of them that I can hold in awe, regardless of whatever behaviours they may demonstrate.
Using a spiritual metaphor, it could be referred to as “the formless”… all human beings being the temporary holders of the incomprehensible, infinite, miraculous, unchanging gift of life itself.
I would explain Earned Respect as simply using my moment-to-moment common sense to navigate all the behaviours as they arise (theirs, mine,
and the world’s).
Using a spiritual metaphor, it could be referred to as navigating “the form”… the continually
changing appearance of life in its infinite variety.
What’s interesting for me is that my level of ability to realize the Owed
Respect, is the basic barometer for how effectively I am offering the Earned Respect.
When I can't see the other person’s beauty,
or I'm not "feeling the love" so to speak (ie, not feeling the Owed Respect), it's my own internal barometer telling me I'm not as clear as I could be, and that I'm likely to respond out of insecurity, instead of clarity, common sense, and wisdom.
If that's the case, I can always feel it at some level. I may notice that I'm feeling separate from them in some way which can appear as being
judgmental, thinking I know better, thinking I know what their problem is and how it should be fixed, thinking I know “who and what” they are, seeing no possibility for redemption, losing my curiosity… the list is endless.
When I become aware of any of these tight and constricted feelings, it’s an indicator that I'm not as clear as I could be, and it reminds me to do whatever makes
sense in the moment to either lessen the interaction with them, or to see if I can re-set myself and get back the feeling of Owed Respect for them, and clarity for me.
From a felt understanding of Owed Respect, the interactions almost always go better. Most importantly, I become a better listener. In response, they tend to feel more heard and respected, so they tend to be more open and
respectful in return.
And even when my respect for them and clarity in the moment doesn't awaken the same in them, my own state of
clarity still gives me access on how best to respond to that. I don't take the interaction as personally, and so my ego doesn't need to get defensive. I see the experience more lightheartedly or philosophically, and I retain my own sense of goodwill, while
doing whatever needs to be done.
What's interesting is that all of us apply this in various ways, without even being aware of it.
It's kind of like writing a nasty email in an angry state of mind, but then deciding not to send it. Even within our anger, we get a bit of clarity that tells us to
not send it, or to hold off and edit it later once we've calmed down or slept on it. Even if we don’t see ourselves as being unclear in that moment, we sense that sending the email as it is, could result in more problems than we started with. Ultimately,
at a deeper level, it’s our own wisdom realizing it’s a good idea to wait until we can hold some Owed Respect for the other person, before we respond.
For me, Owed Respect is foundational to everything I navigate in life.
When I’m feeling the Owed
Respect for another person (or anything in life whether apparently living or not), it means I'm more clear and wise. Out of that clarity, the behaviours of navigating Earned Respect arise more effortlessly and tend to be more helpful.
When I’m not feeling the Owed Respect, AND I happen to notice it, it simply reminds me that, “Hey Jonelle, you’re human, remember?”. This will
usually be followed by an internal chuckle. I’ll then navigate the situation as best I can with awareness of my humanity, both the miraculous and the ridiculous.
I've been reflecting on labels lately, and a story came to mind that I thought I'd share...
I had a friend who once replied to me with the words, “your white fragility”, and “your white saviourism”.
I could feel those words hit my ego.
Fortunately, there was enough of the secure part of me present to not immediately respond in defense. I had some feeling of love and understanding for my friend, and so I simply thanked him for sharing his perspective, and ended
the conversation there. I wasn’t feeling clear enough in the moment to do anything else.
I spent time over the ensuing days,
and even weeks after that, reflecting on that conversation whenever it popped into my mind. Parsing it out. Imagining my cogent, articulate replies. At times genuinely considering what he was trying to say. And yet, still strategizing the logic of my defence!
LOL! Even though there was some open reflection, there was still some level of insecure need within me to justify in my own mind, why and how he was wrong about me.
My ego eventually lost its attachment to the situation, as it often does with time, but in the meantime, I ended up with a really beautiful insight.
I saw with considerable depth and clarity, the power of labels, and how our habitual and innocent societal use of “labelling language” unknowingly creates separation and dehumanization.
Labels that are used to describe BEHAVIOUR, end up getting attached to PEOPLE.
We take the label as “who people are” (intrinsically and without redemption), instead of “where people are” in temporary moments. And we tend to do this especially more so, whenever we happen to be in an insecure state of
The thing is, it’s hard to change the shortcuts of our language. It’s sooooooo easy and convenient to put things
into labelled groups without mentioning all the exceptions, and without detailing all the context and all the complex contributing conditions… and without inevitably attaching the behaviours to people.
I don’t have the answer for fixing this, but I am definitely much more aware now of the labelling I use, than I ever was in the past.
For example, I regularly engage in discussions with “the homeless” and “the marginalized”, but I’ve been trying to STOP speaking about them in
those terms because I see now how it conjures up a picture of “othering”. It disconnects them from me… I can even feel the separation of them from me when I say those words.
Instead, when I remember, I’ve begun saying things like “human beings who are temporarily experiencing homelessness” or I will instead refer to specific experiences or stories.
It keeps ME grounded in our common humanity. And I hope that it also, in some small way, fosters mental pictures for others that allow them to remain in their own understanding of their common humanity as well.
And it’s not that labels can’t or shouldn’t be used. There are temporary times and places and contexts for them.
But, in EVERY moment I want to live my life more graciously and peacefully and joyfully and clear-headedly, and with the intent of goodwill and connection, for me personally, I
need to drop the labels.
The interesting thing is that the more secure and grounded and peaceful my own state of mind in the
moment, the less likely that any labels will even appear in my mind. Instead, I’m simply seeing the miraculous, incomprehensible, and fascinating human beings right in front of me, and not their temporarily limiting behaviours or beliefs... no matter
what labels they may be giving me.
I think that identifying common traits/beliefs/values and giving them a label can serve a variety of uses, but I find it's rarely helpful for navigating my internal life.
The more I find a way to drop the labels that appear in my mind (for situations, for myself, and for others) the more gracefully
I tend to navigate my life... there's a lot less "othering" and fear and judgment and shame, and a lot more curiosity, wonder, clarity, and connection.
Without labels I am left in a state of goodwill.
I would imagine that simply continuing to live in the lightheartedness
and humour and gratitude that goodwill offers, is much more profoundly impactful than I may realize... for myself and everyone around me.
it's all just that simple.
Twice each week for several years before the Covid interruption, I was fortunate to spend time in the company of a variety of amazing human beings using the services of
one of the homeless shelters in our community. The challenges they were experiencing included homelessness, poverty, trauma, chronic health issues, addiction, unemployment, and a variety of other physical conditions and circumstances.
What was fortunate for me was that they were all continually teaching me much more than I ever felt I was teaching them.
one visit a few years ago, I was chatting with a genuinely kind-hearted man who often times, was the only one to show up to the hangout offered. I was always happy to see him, and enjoyed wherever our conversations went, including his sharing of some lovely
One of his metaphors comes to my mind quite often, because it’s the exact opposite of the metaphor I would use to
explain the same thing. So for me, it’s a great example for how words are only ever a shadow of the message being conveyed.
most of this gentleman’s life, he felt as though his thinking was like a garden hose, spraying all around out of control.
then over the weeks of our visits together, he said it felt like he was given a nozzle to put on the end of the hose, which let him finally have some control over it.
He wasn't taking all his thinking as seriously. He wasn’t as afraid to do some things as he was before. New things were occurring to him in how to navigate his life and his complex, busy mind. He could see things he
couldn't see before. He could appreciate things he couldn't appreciate before. He had a sense of knowing what was going on in his mind, instead of being perpetually lost and hopeless in it.
He felt he now had some control over something that previously felt uncontrollable.
In contrast, I tend to
explain my own experience of the "freedom from the tyranny of my thinking", as realizing that I have no control.
My initial big insight
came in the form of, "OMG... every single thought I've ever had in my entire life has been completely made up!"
In a single instant,
I realized and felt the profound truth of that, and it seemed like the most hilarious thing I’d ever realized in my life.
All my lifetime of made up shoulds weren't true or "mine". They were just fleeting
clouds of perspective that somehow appeared in my mind (through absolutely no effort of my own)… some of which were let to flow on by, and some of which were somehow grabbed onto and believed as true.
I now realized that the nature of thought and life was way bigger and complex than I had had any understanding of in the past. And what a relief it felt, not to be in charge of all of that!
At some level, I became the curious and often amused observer of the “Jonelle-branded flow of up and down thinking craziness”,
rather than the personally identified owner of it.
So for me, my experience was, "Yay! I'm not in control of this thinking thing!
And hey, there's nothing to fix! All that “should fix” stuff was made up!"
In contrast, for my hangout friend, his experience
was, "Yay! I have some control over my thinking! I can better navigate the insanity of it all!"
Despite the apparent paradox in the
explanation of our experiences, at a deeper level, both metaphors point to a realization of the same thing...
- some felt sense of our own OKness, wholeness, enough-ness, no matter the craziness going on in our mind or our life
- some felt sense of the nature of thought itself, to be navigated more like passing weather rather than held onto tightly as any enduring truth
So am I in control of my thinking or not? Who knows?
However, within this vast, miraculous, inexplicable,
and incomprehensibly complex experience of life, I suspect that having the “right answer” to that question is not what really matters. Instead, it is simply the grace of realizing any felt understanding of life, or any relationship to our self
or our thinking, that offers peace and possibility, and that is discovered to have always been there, but just hadn’t been realized before.
There's a difference in feeling within me, between NEEDING to stand up for myself and NOT NEEDING to stand up for myself.
There's a difference in feeling within me, between NEEDING to fight back, and NOT NEEDING to fight back.
Someone tosses a grenade. It explodes against my ego. I get angry and respond in defence. I explain, justify, and reason my perspective, my belief, my point of view, as if it is right and true. I find others
who agree with me, and we talk about all the reasons why I am right and why the granade tosser is wrong... and perhaps even why the grenade tosser is less than I am, less than we are, less than human, and perhaps even evil.
And in the moment, it feels really good, doesn't it? There's a release of some sort of pent up anger I proabably didn't even realize I was holding. My sense of self
feels restored back to some form of security.
But... it's not a satisfaction that lasts. In a way it kind of festers. I keep thinking
about it. I keep getting angry about it. I stood my ground, I stood up for myself, which seems to feel better than not standing up for myself, but I'm NOT left with any inner lasting peace.
And it happens all over again when the next grenade gets tossed. Perhaps my defence even begins to get faster, louder, stronger. I appear to be becoming stronger, but with all the focus on that outside
strength, I don't notice the growing bitterness and brittleness of my ego and my fears, that now keep needing more and more protection.
here's another story...
Someone tosses the same grenade. It explodes, but for whatever reason it doesn't hit my ego. I don't get angry.
I have nothing to defend, explain, justify, or reason. I have nothing to fester on later. I don't need to convince anyone why I'm right and why they're wrong. I don't need to collect a community of others to agree with me. I don't need to find news sources
to support my point of view, and secure my "rightness". I've got nothing on it. I just do what makes sense to do in the moment, from a calm, clear, and peaceful mind.
So the grenade explodes, and without anything on it, sometimes it occurs to me to walk away, or walk around the debris (or maybe even clean it up a bit), sometimes I'm reflective or curious about the tosser and me and this
incomprehensible mystery of life, sometimes a burst of love comes through me toward the grenade tosser and I see how amazingly beautiful they are, and I wish they could see what I see...
...that nothing needs to be secured... that everything can be appreciated and marvelled at and wondered at and navigated with understanding and common sense and wisdom and grace.
I expect that apparent grenades will continue to get tossed in my direction throughout my life. And my many remaining bits of insecure ego will jump to my defence for
some grenades, and my secure bits of self will gleefully and gracefully navigate others. I don't seem to have much control over any of this.
But isn't it lovely every time I'm fortunate enough to be aware of that felt difference inside me between the "stand up for myself" feeling of my righteous ego, and the "got nothing on it" feeling of true inner peace. It reminds me that the most
profound way of standing up for myself, is realizing I don't need to stand up at all, and that in any moment I can lean toward the feeling of peace and let that guide me.
Now, if only I'll just listen and lean, and then navigate the grenades from there.