Respect a person but not their beliefs?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Respect a person but not their beliefs?

Postby puppha » Tue Jul 29, 2014 9:14 am

Dear All,

I would like to gather opinions/comments on this question: Can you respect someone even if you don't respect their beliefs?
In essence: What is respect?

Any comment or idea would be much appreciated!

Metta
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Re: Respect a person but not their beliefs?

Postby SarathW » Tue Jul 29, 2014 9:48 am

I take every effort to extend Brahama Vihara's (Metta,Karuna,Muditha) toward all living beings.
That is respect I suppose.
:)
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Re: Respect a person but not their beliefs?

Postby Unrul3r » Tue Jul 29, 2014 9:52 am

puppha wrote:Dear All,

I would like to gather opinions/comments on this question: Can you respect someone even if you don't respect their beliefs?
In essence: What is respect?

Any comment or idea would be much appreciated!

Metta

I'll share some thoughts:

This is a tricky question because 'disrespecting' a person & their beliefs can be the same thing or different. If the person is attached to their beliefs then 'disrespecting' the belief is the same as 'disrespecting' the person. If the person isn't attached to their beliefs, then you can discuss about the beliefs and the person won't feel disrespected or defensive. These matters should be approached sensitively because it's not always easy to discern this difference. Facial expression & body-language can help discerning this.

In this context, respect is about not trying to impose one's beliefs on others and let them change by themselves if they feel so inclined.

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Re: Respect a person but not their beliefs?

Postby puppha » Tue Jul 29, 2014 1:45 pm

Unrul3r wrote:This is a tricky question because 'disrespecting' a person & their beliefs can be the same thing or different. If the person is attached to their beliefs then 'disrespecting' the belief is the same as 'disrespecting' the person. If the person isn't attached to their beliefs, then you can discuss about the beliefs and the person won't feel disrespected or defensive. These matters should be approached sensitively because it's not always easy to discern this difference. Facial expression & body-language can help discerning this.

:thanks:
I tend to agree with your analysis.
However, I don't think respect is relative. If I display the same behaviour to 2 different people in the same situation and one feels respected and the other disrespected, I would tend to think the 2nd person has a problem with his understanding of what "respect" is...

Let's take an example. Suppose I meet someone at a bus stop:
He: The Earth is flat, you know.
Me: Really?
He: Yes, I know it as a Truth. I saw it with my own eyes.
Me: Well, I think that's wrong. Satellites and any science related to that subject tell that the earth is round.

In that example, I didn't respect the other person's beliefs. But does that mean I didn't respect him as a person?


Unrul3r wrote:In this context, respect is about not trying to impose one's beliefs on others and let them change by themselves if they feel so inclined.

I completely agree with that.

Many thanks for any comments!

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Re: Respect a person but not their beliefs?

Postby LXNDR » Tue Jul 29, 2014 1:58 pm

easily if this person is your good friend and the common denominator which made your friendship possible in the first place lies in a dimension different from the points of divergence

with a stranger of course brahmaviharas and Right speech are the key, Right speech is because the thought process is a verbal faculty and insofar as harsh speech isn't allowed, you don't harbor adverse and disparaging thoughts about a person either, whether it's his/her beliefs, behavior, appearance or whatever which call for disrespect makes no difference, as the precept is absolute

this way one is not so much cultivating respect as s/he is cultivating the lack of disrespect, but since our ordinary experience is mainly dichotomic, lack of disrespect turns into respect in conventional terms

respect i understand as acknowledgement of a person's rights and treating this person accordingly

treat others as you want to be treated


and the Buddha decried an attitude expressed by a phrase "Only this is true, everything else is worthless"
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Re: Respect a person but not their beliefs?

Postby Unrul3r » Tue Jul 29, 2014 2:28 pm

puppha wrote: :thanks:
I tend to agree with your analysis.
However, I don't think respect is relative. If I display the same behaviour to 2 different people in the same situation and one feels respected and the other disrespected, I would tend to think the 2nd person has a problem with his understanding of what "respect" is...


I didn't say respect is relative. Re-read carefully, I said that the person feeling disrespected is what is relative, like you said above.

puppha wrote:Let's take an example. Suppose I meet someone at a bus stop:
He: The Earth is flat, you know.
Me: Really?
He: Yes, I know it as a Truth. I saw it with my own eyes.
Me: Well, I think that's wrong. Satellites and any science related to that subject tell that the earth is round.

In that example, I didn't respect the other person's beliefs. But does that mean I didn't respect him as a person?


I don't see any sign of disrespect in that example (except for the word 'wrong' perhaps). Disrespect would be "No, that is wrong, only what science says is true.". In your example you have "I think" and "only what I saw is true" is absent, which makes it possible for a respectful agreement to disagree.

This is the way I see it though, you don't have to agree.

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Re: Respect a person but not their beliefs?

Postby puppha » Tue Jul 29, 2014 3:16 pm

Unrul3r wrote:I don't see any sign of disrespect in that example (except for the word 'wrong' perhaps). Disrespect would be "No, that is wrong, only what science says is true.". In your example you have "I think" and "only what I saw is true" is absent, which makes it possible for a respectful agreement to disagree.

This is the way I see it though, you don't have to agree.

That makes sense to me. Thanks for your input!
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Re: Respect a person but not their beliefs?

Postby Unrul3r » Tue Jul 29, 2014 4:02 pm

puppha wrote:
Unrul3r wrote:I don't see any sign of disrespect in that example (except for the word 'wrong' perhaps). Disrespect would be "No, that is wrong, only what science says is true.". In your example you have "I think" and "only what I saw is true" is absent, which makes it possible for a respectful agreement to disagree.

This is the way I see it though, you don't have to agree.

That makes sense to me. Thanks for your input!


You're welcome. There's a typo in my reply though (I underlined it above). Instead of "only what I saw is true", it would be "only what science says is true.". But I think you understood it anyway.

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Re: Respect a person but not their beliefs?

Postby culaavuso » Tue Jul 29, 2014 5:36 pm

puppha wrote:If I display the same behaviour to 2 different people in the same situation and one feels respected and the other disrespected, I would tend to think the 2nd person has a problem with his understanding of what "respect" is...


It seems that in different situations, different behavior is appropriate. The same behavior will not be beneficial and timely in all circumstances. Understanding the differences in outcome before acting seems important to developing skillfulness in action. If the outcome is a person feeling disrespected then it would seem that the action led to the affliction of others. Additionally it would seem that the speech may not have been beneficial or timely. The opportunity for improvement is in refining one's own actions.

MN 58: Abhayarājakumāra Sutta wrote:In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.

In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings.


MN 61: Ambalaṭṭhikā­rāhulovāda Sutta wrote:Whenever you want to do a verbal action, you should reflect on it: 'This verbal action I want to do — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Would it be an unskillful verbal action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful verbal action with painful consequences, painful results, then any verbal action of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction... it would be a skillful verbal action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then any verbal action of that sort is fit for you to do.


Dhp 18 (252-253) wrote:It's easy to see
the errors of others,
but hard to see
your own.
You winnow like chaff
the errors of others,
but conceal your own —
like a cheat, an unlucky throw.

If you focus on the errors of others,
constantly finding fault,
your effluents flourish.
You're far from their ending.
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Re: Respect a person but not their beliefs?

Postby Mkoll » Tue Jul 29, 2014 5:50 pm

"I must respectfully disagree."

With that, you've respected the person and disagreed with their beliefs.
Peace,
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Re: Respect a person but not their beliefs?

Postby daverupa » Tue Jul 29, 2014 6:05 pm

Having respect for people is being patient with them while finding the appropriate times to express goodwill, sympathy, and/or harmlessness. This should become possible to do for anyone in any situation (think of the simile of the saw) over time.

So, disrespect is the opposite - impatience, indifference, contempt, and/or harmfulness.

In this sense respect should be a constant abiding, which would mean that one could disagree with someone else as long as 'respect' (as defined above) was the guiding compass - e.g. is the idea harmful to them such that I am motivated by patient goodwill, or does it feel like a personal affront that they hold the idea such that I am motivated by self-interest? (This sort of approach, of course, is related to that in MN 58 & 61, above.)
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Respect a person but not their beliefs?

Postby Unrul3r » Wed Jul 30, 2014 7:42 am

puppha,

I was reflecting on our exchange and I thought that I might have left something unsaid.

You said this:
puppha wrote:However, I don't think respect is relative. If I display the same behaviour to 2 different people in the same situation and one feels respected and the other disrespected, I would tend to think the 2nd person has a problem with his understanding of what "respect" is...

I said:
Unrul3r wrote:I didn't say respect is relative. Re-read carefully, I said that the person feeling disrespected is what is relative, like you said above.


I was thinking about it and I think I understand how you got the impression that I implied that respect is relative. Let me try to clarify.

In the first paragraph of my first reply I was answering the first question ("Can you respect someone even if you don't respect their beliefs?") and so I was trying to make the distinction between the beliefs & attachment to those beliefs (So the answer would be yes). It might seem that I was saying that respect is relative by being dependent on the person's attachment but what I'm trying to say there is that feeling disrespected is what is dependent on the person's attachment, not respect.

In the second paragraph is where I respond to the second question ("What is respect?") but I didn't actually answer it and instead erroneously replied with how to show respect in the case of differing beliefs. There I say: "In this context, ..." which seems that respect is relative but what I'm trying to say is that, the act of respecting or the application of respect is what is relative (to the situation), not that respect itself is relative. (I may, for example, be respecting someone by abstaining from the various kinds of unwholesome actions in moments where they could've been done and this is a different application of respect from the one I referred to above.)

So, the first paragraph is saying that feeling disrespected is what is relative and answering affirmatively to the first question, the second paragraph is saying that how you show respect is what is relative and not actually answering the second question. So, answering the question ("What is respect?"), I think others have already done so, by saying, in sum, noble intentions. If I can say that respect "is" anything, I think it would be noble intentions (good-will, compassion, sympathy, equanimity) and these are immeasurable & not relative.

I hope this makes any sense and clarifies more than obscures. If not, discard it.

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Re: Respect a person but not their beliefs?

Postby appicchato » Wed Jul 30, 2014 10:19 am

Besides the term 'respect' being relative (and subject to opening cans of worms), where's being judgmental going to get anyone?...where's the benefit?...and why should it matter?...deciding to be respectful, or disrespectful, is a recipe for discord, because, without a doubt, feelings will change, sooner or later...and human nature being what it is, more often than not, not for the better...why would/should anyone concern themselves with what others believe?...if asked, concerning one's self with the benefit, and skill, of what is personally believed (or aspire to) is time infinitely better spent...

Acceptance...acceptance...it's all good either way...
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Re: Respect a person but not their beliefs?

Postby puppha » Fri Aug 01, 2014 2:48 pm

I thought again about this question, and I think the answer is "yes".
To respect something means to have admiration for that thing, to esteem it, to attribute it positive values and thoughts, to consider it valuable and useful (according to the various definitions I found on the web).
I definitely do not respect the belief that the Earth is flat. It appears to me as false, silly and useless. However, I could still have respect for the person who hold such beliefs as a fellow human being with the value attributed to human life.

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