Do you lately feel like you have to walk on eggshells? Are you worried that others will be offended? You are not the only one. In these times, the difficult thing is not to lack respect. They all seem to have their emotions running high, exhibiting extreme sensitivity, always ready to assume the role of victim and start an argument in which the other inevitably becomes an intolerant aggressor.
Faced with this hypersensitivity, more and more people choose self-censorship. They decide to keep quiet so as not to disturb. They hide what they think and repress their emotions so as not to risk hurting overly sensitive egos. And yet, despite that, a recently conducted survey revealed that 93.71% of people detect more disrespect today than a few decades ago.
Clear values and more rigid standards of behavior
The short answer: we are going through an important change on a social level.
The society at the beginning and middle of the last century was more homogeneous. There were some fairly explicit consensual values that the majority agreed with, so that everyone knew the social norms they had to follow. They knew what was allowed and what was not.
This clarity allowed people to know what a lack of respect was because a large part of society rejected and condamned certain behaviors and attitudes. The system of values and beliefs was more rigid, leaving little room for misinterpretation.
Is that good or bad?
Neither one nor the other.
It was like that.
When we look back, it is important not to fall into the trap of declinism thinking that everything in the past was better. Just as it is important not to fall into the mistake that today everything is better. Having things so clear simplifies your decisions and in many cases facilitates relationships – at least on a social level – but it can also become a straitjacket that limits and represses us.
More subjective values with more heterogeneous norms
Our society is embracing heterogeneity, advocating for greater individual freedom. And as we open ourselves to different ways of understanding and being in the world, those rigid norms disappear. Values blur and limits become more confusing because everything depends more on the criteria – or lack thereof – of each person.
We are freer to express ourselves, so subjectivity takes center stage and begins to supplant social codes, making it increasingly difficult to know what may represent a lack of respect for others. It is more complicated to understand what attitudes or words can hurt the sensitivity of the person next to us.
Is that good or bad?
Once again, neither one nor the other.
It’s like that.
The idea that everyone can express themselves is wonderful, but at the same time it carries the risk of egos growing excessively and bridges of dialogue breaking. When the vast majority of people are convinced that the world revolves around them and they are right, anything that goes against their principles can become an offense.
When respect stops being a two-way road
Before we made the mistake of not recognizing individuality, now we make the mistake of not recognizing the other.
Respect begins precisely with an attentive look at the other, a recognition of their value as a person on par with our own. It is not a simple tolerance, but requires an active effort to understand and accept who is before us. Respect is not about being politically correct or censoring ourselves for fear of offending, but about being aware of the uniqueness of the person in front of us.
And that is a two-way road.
In interpersonal relationships we not only deserve respect, we also owe it. We have the right to think, feel and act as unique individuals, but we must also understand that others have the same right.
It means that we must try not to offend, but at the same time not feel offended by those who think differently, express themselves differently or live differently than us.
As Izaak Walton wrote, “Some offenses are inflicted upon us, but others we make our own.” If it is increasingly difficult not to disrespect someone, it is because there is more and more diversity and plurality in the way of seeing the world, but also greater sensitivity.
We do not have the right to say the first thing that crosses our mind in the name of freedom of expression if we sense that it is something that could deeply hurt others. But we also do not have the right to act with pride and arrogance, taking offense at everything and often demanding a respect that is not reciprocal, to try to silence those who think differently.
We will have to learn to live with it by seeking other paths to understanding where reciprocal respect prevails within the framework of the new ethical consensus that we have reached as a society. And we better give ourselves hurry, for our mental balance and for the good of society. If we do not achieve this and everyone limits themselves to embracing his truth, we will be heading towards chaos.