The Three Types of Respect

DrillMasterAsk DrillMaster, Commentary, Leadership 6 Comments

There are three type of respect? And you probably thought there was only one type. I did initially.

Thank you very much to my Facebook friends back in 2017 who chimed in giving me their requested feedback for this article. Very interesting!

Your job gives you authority. Your behavior gives you respect.

Hommer Homteam Smith

I need to make one point very clear, it does not matter what one “thinks” about this subject.

“I think respect is…”

Respect- wrong

What you think, what I think, does not matter since our thinking is based mostly from experience and training. Please approach this article with a willingness to learn, I did as I researched it and learned more than I thought I would.

From, these are definitions 3, 4, and 5 of Respect for our purposes:

3. esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability:

ex. I have great respect for her judgment.

4. deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment:

ex. respect for a suspect’s right to counsel; to show respect for the flag; respect for the elderly.

5. the condition of being esteemed or honored:

ex. to be held in respect.

I utterly despise the phrase sometimes shoved in our faces:

“Respect is (always) earned, never given.”

My response:


But why?

Respect- wrong

Swimming around in my mind for some time now is the theory that some may confuse trust and respect. My thinking was along the lines of: respect is given and trust is earned. I thought it may be a possibility just as some misconstrue sex and love. I was also trying to identify the likelihood of there being three different types of respect, but I just could not nail it down nor did I have the time to begin the research. More on this in a moment, back to the phrase I dislike so much.

Respect is (always) earned. I can understand earned respect; it is the use of the absolute, always, that I do not agree with. Sometimes “always” is not used. Still, something about the idea of “earnable/losable” bugs me; basic respect must still be there, regardless of earned/lost.

Never given. This part of the statement is another absolute. It is the portion of the phrase that gives me difficulty because its application is so broad and, like an infection, can spread and destroy. The destruction is of relationships, organizations, and, ultimately, a country.

Why is respect never given? What good reason could there be for it? That reason does not exist, it comes from selfishness. You are demanding that one must give you respect (probably because you think you have earned it), while simultaneously refusing to give it unless it’s earned.

What we now know so far:


“Respect is (always) earned”


Some sort of action must take place, which means it is impossible for perfect strangers, upon meeting, to “earn” each other’s respect.


The Three Types of Respect

Dr. Steven Ater to the rescue. He wrote about The Three Types of Respect here. I’ve provided my take on the first two types.

  1. The Respect of Personhood
    • Definition: each person, who was made in the image of God, has innate worth
    • Example: Matthew 7:12 is the quote from scripture that is most often described as the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. There is also Romans 12:10, Philippians 2:3, Titus 2:7, and 1 Peter 2:17, just to name a few verses out of many that speak of respect for people, regardless of how you feel about them.
  2. The Respect of Authority
  3. The Respect of Honor
    • Definition and Example: “When we grant someone the Respect of Honor we are recognizing their excellence in some quality or qualities and tend to defer to them within these areas of excellence (but not generally outside those areas of excellence). Respect of Honor involves a great deal of trust and much hurt can be done if they abuse that trust.” –Dr. Ater

Offered or Earned?

Now that we have a definition that gives us the three types of respect, let’s delve in further to see what can be earned and lost.

  1. The Respect of Personhood
    • Should be given, MUST be given, no matter what you feel or think.
      • If our society is to function, mutual respect is the basis.
    • This type is “earned” by being born and it cannot be lost. Having said that, it is a type that can only be given. This is where selfishness plays a big part. Due to selfishness, this type of respect, for some, is rarely given.
    • This includes parents which extends to everyone who is one’s elder. Of the Ten Commandments, number five is the only one to include a result of following that rule: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
  2. The Respect of Authority
    • Should be given, MUST be given, no matter what you feel or think
      • You hate all law enforcement officers (government officials, anyone in authority) because of whatever reason, your reasoning is unsound.
    • This type is “earned” by appointment to a position and, just like the Respect of Personhood, selfishness again rears its ugly head. Again, due to selfishness, this type of respect, for some, is rarely given.
  3. The Respect of Honor
    • This is the only type of respect that is earned and lost.


This brings up a very good question:

Is disrespect tantamount to not showing respect?

Another definition from, this time for the word, Disrespect.

Noun: Lack of respect; discourtesy; rudeness.

Verb (used with object): to regard or treat without respect; regard or treat with contempt or rudeness.

“Disrespect and not showing respect”

Researching that term, gave me a very interesting way to define this phrase. The following words came up to help give a more rich understanding of what disrespect and not showing respect might be:

  • Scorn, noun, a feeling that someone or something is not good enough to deserve your approval or respect
  • Disdain, noun, the feeling that someone or something is not important and does not deserve any respect
  • Contempt, noun, a failure to show appropriate respect for something that other people consider to be important
  • Disregard, noun, the attitude of someone who does not respect something or consider it important
  • Contemptuous, adjective, showing that you do not respect someone or something at all
  • Derogatory, adjective, showing that you have a bad opinion of something or someone, usually in an insulting way
  • Derisive, adjective, showing that you think someone or something is stupid, unimportant, or useless
  • familiarity breeds contempt, used for saying that you can stop respecting someone or something when you know them very well

Synonyms of Disrespect


Noun: disregard, rudeness toward someone (below highlight mine)

  • boldness
  • coarseness
  • discourtesy
  • dishonor
  • flippancy
  • hardihood
  • impertinence
  • impiety
  • impoliteness
  • impudence
  • sacrilege
  • insolency
  • insolentness
  • incivility
  • Insolence
  • lack of respect
  • irreverence
  • unmannerliness

Antonyms of Disrespect


  • courtesy
  • humility
  • manners
  • politeness
  • respect
  • reverence
  • civility
  • esteem
  • honor
  • regard

It is clear to me that “not showing respect”, as benign as one may think it to be, is actually being disrespectful. Anything but respect is, in essence, disrespect. I am convinced and convicted.

The great thing about a new day and even a new year is that we get a chance to begin again. We can even ask others for forgiveness. Whether that person forgives us or not, we still need to show them respect based on the Respect of Personhood (and Authority, if applicable), even if the respect we offer is not returned.

Comments 6

  1. Thank you so much for your work and research, I have gained lots of useful information. Now it is much more clean for me than the 3 types of respect. I just have some questions, that I would be happy to hear about your point of view.

    1. How we should deal with disrespectful people.
    2. How to improve our respect toward others.
    3. What does actually mean to respect others, where is that boundary, where you understand that you are not being respectful toward others.

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      I restated your questions below and then provided my answers.

      1. How should we deal with disrespectful people.
      It depends on who is being disrespectful. If it’s someone in authority over you, you must address it firmly and with respect to the individual’s authority. If it’s someone you have authority over, let them know, even in writing, that disrespect (fully explained) is not tolerated.

      2. How do we improve our respect toward others.
      It must be taught from an early age because it is not inherent. We can develop and/or improve our respect to others by understanding these three tenets of respect, that two of the forms, personhood and authority, are always given, regardless of the circumstances, and the other, honor, can be lost, but even when lost, common courtesy is not withheld.

      3. What does it actually mean to respect others, where is the boundary where you understand that you are not being respectful toward others.
      It means that you see them as an individual made in the image of God as the Apostle Paul tells us. That we are to treat others as we wish to be treated, again, regardless of the circumstances.

      I believe that you will know that you are crossing the line into disrespect by how others react to what you say or do, by their tone of voice, and body language.

      I don’t know that we can always know exactly that we are being disrespectful. We can be blinded to our words or actions that can rub another the wrong way. That is to say, that hyper-offensiveness, notwithstanding. There will always be someone who is offended at the drop of a hat even if you are being as polite and professional as possible. Still, we then have to take the other’s reaction as best we can and have a meaningful apology ready to offer when we are told about our disrespect.

      That apology cannot be as crass as “Sorry you’re offended”, it needs to be more along the lines of, “I do apologize, it was not my intention to be disrespectful to you. I would like to say/do that again but differently, if I may.”

      Even when we receive the mildest or worst disrespect, we must remain calm and focused and not react emotionally.

      I hope this was helpful for you.

  2. I admire the sensitivity in the way you approached the subject matter. In that I am a God fearing man, I believe God exists, and that He is the source of everything. Each person is created in his Image, therefor deserves respect, this then is earned, can not be lost. What he does with his life is up to him, he will face judgment when God calls him home. Authority is given to establish order in Society. Therefor, a person in authority deserves respect, his/her position earns that respect, not the person. When this person abuse this authority, he/she will face judgment for breaching that authority.
    Respect of Honor, as per your research is spot on. I agree, can be earned and lost. Thank you for taking time to clear the true meaning of ‘RESPECT.’ I believe when people understands and apply ‘RESPECT’ in their everyday lives, the world will be a much better place.

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      Only one type of respect (honor) is earned, the other two are given, regardless of feelings. The respect of personhood is not earned, it is given. The same with authority. One does not earn what one is freely given by God. Other people may not, and most likely do not, understand this.


  3. Well said! Thank you for taking the time to write on this subject matter. I felt that your writing was balanced and well-thought-out. I couldn’t have written it much better myself. In fact my search on this particular subject man the subject matter was summed up by you in one writing, which I expected to learn by consuming numerous other pieces of content, Bravo for your effort.

    Derrick Thomas

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