Like “love,” the word “respect” is fairly limited. It’s another good example of why the English language can only take you so far, and why we must use other tools in order to understand and investigate these concepts a bit further. You can love your best friend, you can love your kids, and you can love a romantic partner — those words are quite different in each scenario, and many other languages have entirely different words for each type of love. It gets even more complicated when you talk concepts like loving your enemies.

Similarly, you can use the word respect when referring to a superior officer in the military, an elderly woman who has lost her sons in WWII, and you can use it when talking about how to treat a woman at a bar. Some might say this makes the word quite diverse; others might say it waters down its meaning.

At the end of the day, there are two primary types of respect: the respect of fellow human beings, and the respect that is earned.

Universal Respect

The first type is the respect that many parents strive to teach their children — “Don’t steal from other kids on the playground,” or “Share with your brother.” It extends to the respect of the opposite sex later in life — “Get consent,” or even chivalrous behavior like, “hold the door open for her.” In fact, holding the door for others has become a courteous way to show respect to everyone. Universal respect also means helping an elderly person load groceries into their car at the store, or pulling over to jump someone’s car.