Michael Laitman
Founder and president of Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education & Research Institute

Respect and Disrespect in Relationships

Relationships can succeed or fail over respect and disrespect. When we show disrespect, it can make the affected person want to die or kill. But what does it mean to respect someone? How does respect affect our connections? Also, how should we treat our children when it comes to respect, and what should we demand of them?

Each of us has sets of values with which we gauge the people around us. We grade them as high or low, and accordingly, treat them with respect, disrespect, and anywhere within that gamut. When we want to build a solid, healthy relationship, mutual respect is one of the most important elements.

We all have things we appreciate more or less about others, and others look at me through their own sets of values. In order to connect correctly, we must increase the value of the positive things in our connection, and decrease the value of things that hinder our connection. A good connection is built on mutual concessions, which builds in us respect for the connection itself.

Conversely, contempt erases a person’s self. It makes one feel as though he or she doesn’t exist, or doesn’t deserve to exist. This is why no one can stand being disrespected or ridiculed.

Inherently, each person feels that only he matters. If someone insists on having merit besides me, it is as if that merit comes at my expense. For this reason, when we build a relationship, it is important not to breach the boundary of the other person or belittle the other person’s personality. We may disagree with others on certain points, but we must not show disrespect, as this undercuts their value as individuals. We must remember that in the end, both of us are egoists, and both are trying to find a common ground on which we can connect.

The best way to avoid hurting others is to think about how we can respect and appreciate others. Generally, we shouldn’t think about how to avoid the negative, but about how to increase the positive. Therefore, we should constantly show respect, appreciation, and love. You may be different from me, but I build bridges of love above it since I value the connection with you more than anything. To make you happy, I am willing to make great concessions, and I want to give you an example and see the same approach from you.

In relationships between parents and children, there is also the complicated matter of mutual respect. On the one hand, if a parent does not respect a child, it will ruin the child’s self-esteem, which could result in insecurity for life. On the other hand, parents should not display unconditional love; it is important that they demand respect from the children, or the children might disrespect them, sometimes to the point of hatred.

Respect means you trust the child, you think he or she is responsible, and you make room for the child to develop independently. Don’t do for the child what the child can do alone; and even a little more than that, so the child will see his or her limits.

Demanding respect from the children is a condition that will enable them to be more successful in life. Children who respect the parents’ view can learn from them, receive guidance, and absorb values, orientation, and other good things that only loving parents can convey to their children. I don’t demand that my children will love me back; I only want their success, happiness, and health. This is what will make me happy.

Therefore, if we try to truly respect other people, make room for them within us, appreciate them even more than we appreciate ourselves, we will gradually develop toward them that elusive feeling called “love.” Then, we will discover that this is the most sublime feeling, which stands at the basis of Creation.

About the Author
Michael Laitman is a PhD in Philosophy and Kabbalah. MSc in Medical Bio-Cybernetics. Founder and president of Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education & Research Institute. Author of over 40 books on spiritual, social and global transformation. His new book, The Jewish Choice: Unity or Anti-Semitism, is available on Amazon: