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  • Marissa Burr

Respect is Earned, But More Importantly Learned

By Marissa Burr, Opinion Editor

I was lucky enough to grow up in a household with a mom, dad and a big brother. I have a large extended family that I’m very close with, which means that I had dozens of adults around me whose actions I could learn from. Now, at 20 years old, I’d like to think that I embody the ideals that my parents instilled in me when it came to how to treat others. They taught me how to be a kind person and give everyone the respect that they deserve.

Now take a moment to analyze the wording in that last sentence. When I do so, I can see a lesson from my mom and another from my dad. My mother is always kind to those around her, and odds are if you ask anyone she’s interacted with, her kindness will be one of the first qualities they notice. I picked up on that, and luckily imitating it comes pretty naturally. Now, my father is a little rougher around the edges — but still kind and “fluffy,” as he likes to say — and because of his personality he let my brother and I witness how he treated others. He gives everyone the respect they deserve, and he bases that on how they act around him and with others. He isn’t afraid to give someone’s energy right back to them, and I love that about him. You certainly cannot push Michael Burr around.

Having been working in the customer service industry since I was 16, I’ve had more than my fair share of rude customers who have been combative, sexist and belligerent, among other things, to me. Bosses preach to you in these jobs that you have to just smile and be helpful regardless. It’s good advice, but that doesn’t always work, especially when you are in the lowest position of authority and can’t ask someone else for help. The amount of people who think it’s acceptable to scream at a teenager who’s just doing their job is deplorable.

Because of the values taught by my parents, I’ve been told by coworkers that I’ve handled those interactions better than they would, and I would agree. I don’t get angry and yell back at someone who is screaming across the register. Rather, I calmly explain what I can do for them and that “I’m sorry for the inconvenience.” If they continue to behave no better than a toddler having a tantrum, I just move on to the next place I’m needed. It usually makes them angry, but I’ve done all that I can do. As I say a lot to my friends when recalling a heated situation, “I don’t get paid enough for that.”

I’ve found that these outbursts often come from a sense of entitlement. People believe that they are entitled to certain things in life. News flash: You’re not. I realized that early on, and in the past three years many horrible events have occurred that have further reinforced the fact that I’m not even entitled to happiness — that has to come from within myself.

This doesn’t mean people should be rude to me, especially since that doesn’t actually get you anywhere. It's just a fact, and the sooner the “Karens” realize it, the better. They will often argue that they’re being disrespected or they deserve more than they’ve gotten. Okay, but by that logic, shouldn’t I — another human being — be afforded the same?

Being younger than someone does not mean I don’t deserve respect. Nor does being a woman or the fact that I don’t have any money to my name. Bottom line, people deserve a level of kindness and respect.

You’ve heard that respect is earned? That’s true, but what many don’t understand is that the level of respect should start at the top and lessen as a person hurts others. A stranger in a store shouldn’t be yelled at because they haven't “earned your respect.” No, you as the yeller aren’t entitled to my continued politeness because you don’t know how to treat people. Once that is learned, then the respect can be earned back.

Let others see you respecting people – it’ll make the world a better place.

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