Respect, Common Courtesy and Why I Won’t Say Sorry

by - August 13, 2017

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There are several forms of respect. In the Philippine setting, children are expected to use “po” and “opo” when speaking with the elders (though I seldom encounter kids these days who do this). Children are not allowed to speak their minds when elders are scolding them (‘Wag kang sasagot, bastos ka!), or if elders are talking to each other (‘Wag kang sasabat sa usapan ng matatanda). I grew up adhering to these rules, along with many other forms of respect I would no longer mention here, or my mom would slap me. But as I got older, I realized that respect and courtesy do not start and end there. And children are not just the ones who should give respect to the elders. The elders should also consider how and what the young people think and feel.

I’ve already encountered different kinds of people, and I’ve learned how to deal with them (pakikisama) the hard way. A lot of my friends used to get offended when I speak my mind especially if it’s about them, though in the long run, they just took the fact that I am a straightforward person. But that didn’t mean I didn’t do anything about it. I knew I also have to watch myself because clearly, not everyone is used to my straightforwardness. I made sure to think them through—what I am going to say, who I am going to say it to, and how I am going to say it. A tough process indeed, but I do my best because number one, I don’t want to appear too judgmental, number two, I don’t want to be dubbed as disrespectful (bastos) and number three, I don’t want to offend people.

I’ve also seen people who demand respect. At first I was okay with it because, why not? All of us deserves respect, right? But then again, as I got older, I realized that respect is earned—you never ask for it. I’ve come to the conclusion that people would respect you if they think you deserve it. Yet, there are also people who do not have the common courtesy when it came to these things. They are too self-entitled to demand respect from you just because they’re much older that you (an elder) and maybe you’re too young to point out what’s unethical in what they do (again, they’re elders so they believe they’re never wrong).  Also, they are physically unfit to take offensive comments and so when they tell you how they are offended about the things you said, even if you said it the nicest way, you can’t answer back to speak up your mind or even defend yourself in the matter. Otherwise, the people in question would not be able to take it that well and all of you are gonna end up in the emergency room and it’s all your fault for being too “tactless”.

FYI: I get the best lessons in life from children. Their innocence about things like grudge, complicated life and even social ethics are what made them the easiest human beings to deal with. Not because you’re much older than me, you’re entitled to tell me what to do and demand respect and common courtesy. If speaking in another language with one other peer in a chatroom of people who at most don’t understand what you’re saying doesn’t mean lack of common courtesy, then I don’t know what it means. Some people found it unethical, even rude, and so as one of the moderators, I had to step in and do something. I don’t care if you’re not nanlilibak (mocking) and your conversation is completely innocent, because again, most people can’t understand you. And please! Stop pointing out that you can’t handle stress, and the offense you took in what I said triggered that stress. Has it slipped off your mind that I, too, have a condition like yours and I, too, can’t handle stress? You just deprived me of the opportunity of defending myself, and also to show the community that I didn’t mean anything offensive. You decided to get offended, and you said it in a way that people started to think that everything I said was wrong. 

My computer teacher gave a reminder just right before graduation. Always say “thank you” and “I’m sorry.” Heaven knows how I took this advice to heart, but I would never say sorry for something I didn’t do. I wouldn’t say sorry for the things I didn’t mean. I guess it’s safe to say it’s not my fault that people ALWAYS misunderstood things and take them negatively. It’s not my fault that people take offense in something that was completely innocent.

Dear God, I need more strength right now.

Beth G.

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