Fear and Respect

Fear and Respect

Can you respect somebody you fear?

Fear engenders obedience because of the implied threat of punishment. It leads to passivity and acquiescence to the other’s wishes (demands?). This can be misinterpreted as respect but there is an important difference: to respect somebody you must hold them in high regard – you must value and admire them. And my regard for somebody I fear is less than nothing – I hold them in contempt. I obey them because I am mindful of the consequences of disobedience – I rarely have the courage to stand up and confront people. It is emphatically not because I have any respect for them.

There are many names for the kind of people who delude themselves that they are respected because they hold positions of power over others, and abuse that power to bend those others to their will. Names such as tyrant, despot, dictator…


It is a matter of volition. I will follow somebody I respect out of choice; I will submit to somebody I fear under duress. When I am a willing participant I am more productive – I want to give of my best and will strive to do so; when I’m forced to do something I will grudgingly conform to the letter of any demand but there is no inclination to perform well. It’s not quite passive resistance, rather procrastination.