Respect as a Spiritual Requirement

Respect is a large thing in my life.  I find that it is a large concept in many people’s life, especially within my culture.  I was raised to understand that respecting the next person is not something that is a choice but an expectation.  My mother and my father were born and raised in the south (which is the norm at some point in the family tree of Black people) and so respect was engrained and could equate to what was a life or death situation.

Needless to say I was raised not to talk back, speak when spoken to and show the upmost respect to my elders.  While I have not always subscribed to this in my adulthood in a way that my mother would agree with, it is something that is a part of my personal make up as a Black woman and as a professional.  What I have come to really understand is that this does not always translate in the Pagan community.  There is no direct correlation in the Pagan community that means respect to one another the way that it did for me growing up.  I think about how we are going to sustain the Pagan community and struggle with how that might look when we are not always able to respect one another and the contribution that each of us make.

Instead of gripping on the problem, since any given person could share a handful of experiences that fall into this category, I instead want to think about what message I would want to say to support solutions to this problem in our community.  To do this, I will speak with the voice of my mother and other ancestors that have passed on this lesson to me as it is applicable here.

It is important to mention here (because I just have to) that this is not pointed at any one person or situation.  It is also not a claim of innocence on my part and we all make some of the same mistakes in our journeys of growth, I am no different.  And with that…

  • Your actions will always speak louder than your words.
  • Your ability to show respect and appreciation to another person is an example of how much you respect and appreciate yourself.
  • You cannot love anyone else until you love yourself.
  • Your ancestors are the shoulders in which you stand on in order to have the opportunities you have now.
  • Respect is earned, not given.
  • Treat others how you want to be treated.
  • “Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners” – Lourence Sterne.
  • and the last one is a quote from Eldridge Cleaver of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense….. “Respect commands itself and it can neither be given nor withheld when it is due”.

It is important that we show examples within our community by extending to one another what the Gods have extended to us.  While we speak of our direct lineage to the divine, let us treat one another accordingly.  If I am of the Goddess, so are you.  And while we are building a community together, let us sustain it together.


  • S. Evans

    I think you make some really great points.  It seems to me that a lot of what society thinks of as respect these days is not actually respect; in my “travels” I’ve seen so many people think that respecting something means they have to agree with it or like it.  Say for instance the “fluffy bunny” types of Paganism that seem to be so rampant.  I don’t really like it for myself, nor do I agree with it, but I absolutely respect their right to believe in it and practice it for themselves, and respect them for sticking to their guns about how they believe; especially when so many people do not respect them for it!  

    Thanks for the awesome perspective.  

  • Anonymous

    I agree with you so very much. Them kids (get off my lawn!) have not been raised the way many of us — of many colors — have been.

    One point, which used to be a bone of contention between me and my stepson, “Respect is earned, not given.” Yep. But civility should be a given before, during and after respect is earned.

  • Dawn Marie Costorf


  • Lydia M. N. Crabtree

    I have always loved you. I have always respected you. Reading this I realize that you are more than I was or am able to comprehend and no amount of love or respect given to you could ever be equal to the powerful Goddess in you that you have accepted. What a great worker bee!

  • Peter Dybing

    Well said Crystal, You have earned respect as one of the “New Pagan Leaders” bringing specific skills and insights to the community. It is an honor to know you and a pleasure to read your work.

  • Editor B

    Agree. Respect is an essential value.

  • David Salisbury

    Great words Crystal. You most certainly have my respect!

  • Katrina Messenger

    Well spoken … and  in line with one of the core teachings of my school, the Respect Protocol.  I really need to write that up at some point.  But I developed it for the same reason you addressed.  My cultural heritage seemed unsupported in contemporary Paganism in terms of self respect, respect for others and most esp respect for elders.  So I made respect the soil within which my tradition nestled and grew. 

    Great quote from Eldridge Cleaver , too bad he lost his mind later.  ;-)

    • Crystal Blanton

      Agreed about Eldridge Cleaver…. one part of a sad series of events that led to the demise of the Panthers.  

  • Neal Jansons

    The problem with platitudes is they ignore too much nuance. The devil is in the details…to wit:

    1. “Your actions will always speak louder than your words.”

    Unless those words are a racist, sexist, or homophobic epithet.

    2. “Your ability to show respect and appreciation to another person is an example of how much you respect and appreciate yourself.”

    Unless you’re a narcissistic egoist, like most people in our culture.

    3. “You cannot love anyone else until you love yourself.”

    What a wonderful thing to tell people with low self-esteem. In addition to feeling horrible all the time, you’ll never truly love anyone, no matter what you may think about your own feelings.

    4. “Your ancestors are the shoulders in which you stand on in order to have the opportunities you have now.”

    Unless you come from a line of abusers.

    5. “Respect is earned, not given.”

    Unless you’re a cop, teacher, parent, politician, or boss. Then you simply deserve it, and “earn” it with your ability to punish.

    6. “Treat others how you want to be treated.”

    Unless you’re a masochist or crave abuse.

    7. ““Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners” – Lourence Sterne.”

    Except for table manners. Elbows off the table and tiny forks have nothing to do with this. And except for all those icky “moral laws” handed down by certain cultures…those usually have nothing to with respect, either.

    8. “Respect commands itself and it can neither be given nor withheld when it is due”.

    See number 5.

    • Crystal Blanton

      Greetings Neal.  I have so much to say about your comment but I feel that would be taking away from the post of the message.  Your cynical responses only show why respect is so very important within any community.  It is not about abuse, low self esteem or even narcissism.   If you cannot see beyond your immediate family to understand the sacrifice of your ancestors… that would explain your positions.  

      I hope you get something from the post and let the concepts or your lack of understanding them lend to a greater understanding of something meaningful for you.  and for that I extend love and support.  

      • Harold

        I think I understand what Neal is saying. 

        Several years ago, I worked with a guy that committed suicide. Nice guy. Seemed to get along well with everyone. There was a write up about how he was a devout Christian. How he had recently underlined several scriptures in his daily reading of the bible. The article quoted the scriptures he had underlined. I would say the majority of Christians reading the verses he had underlined would say they were great words to live by. I can’t remember which scriptures they were, but, they were words like – when you die you will go to heaven. But, when I looked at them through non-Christian eyes, what I saw was him finding scriptures to justify his committing suicide. 

        At least in this case, I do believe the devil was in the details.

        That being said. I think your’s was a great blog post. I shared it with my circles.

        • Crystal Blanton

          Personal perception is always key to how we internalize what is before us.  I know that for me personally I have had numerous times where I feel that something said is meant to mean one thing and it means something else.  Our own take on things will always guide many of the ways that we operate in the world. 

          I think that for me personally I am really trying to understand how to live values that are often the ones we forget.  As today is officially the two year anniversary of my mother’s death, I am at a place to really remember a lot of the things that she would say to me in my upbringing and try to correlate those with my life today.  The details are always tricky but as they say in recovery…. I am trying to “(K.I.S.S) – Keep it simple stupid”.  

          We can over think  and look for the details in all the myriad of situations (which I have done and see others do too) or we can try to think about the values we were raised with and the ones we have adopted.  that is where I am in my life.

          I am sorry to hear of your friend.  It is tragic and leaves such pain behind… and obviously he was living with so much pain himself as well.  I think that devil in the details might have been good at making the bigger picture of potential in life seem like it didn’t exist.  


      • Neal Jansons

        Apparently condescension is respectful now. Who knew?

        It seems you think that I don’t understand what these platitudes are “about”. I have shown each have problems being applied to any particular situation in the real world, where pop psychology often falls flat, with specific examples. I can give more. Your response is simply to say I don’t get it, with no examples, nor explanation of what these various platitudes are “about”. Then you essentially imply that I’m less spiritually evolved than you are because I don’t agree with these platitudes.

        So, since obviously *you* must understand what it’s “about”, and you obviously understand things so much more deeply and perfectly than I do, why don’t you show your “love and support” by rebutting my claims? Just saying that someone doesn’t understand and condescending to them doesn’t make an argument or give me any reasons to accept your position.

        Let me restate my position: platitudes sound good because they say things we wish were true, for various reasons:

        1. We wish actions spoke louder than words, because that would make the connections between people and our respect for them make sense. In reality, words are powerful, and are the reason that we keep electing politicians despite their actions, the reason we adopt a certain value system (such as that in this post), and in certain cases, the reason we eschew and attack a given person. Just look at your response…all I said was that I disagreed with the platitudes and why, yet you felt compelled to condescend to me; you don’t know me, and don’t know my actions…you know my words.

        2.  We like the idea that people who are disrespectful to others are in some way lacking inside. It makes us feel better to believe that someone who acts like that is suffering from some deep character flaw. But in reality, narcissists, egoists, and sociopaths exist. The evidence is indisputable. And I don’t see them having any problems respecting themselves while disrespecting all of these other people. This is a variation on believing that the grapes your rival got were sour, anyway; it may make you feel better, but they still got the grapes.

        3. This little chestnut of pop psychology is not only insulting to those with emotional problems, it violates the principal of the Incorrigibility of Self-Report: the only way you can know what another person is feeling is to have them tell you. To simply decide that someone else is incapable of feeling something (and with no evidence to back that up) is simply storytelling. Maybe it fits your sense of equilibrium and symmetry to believe that someone who does not love themselves cannot love other people, but as someone who loathes himself but worships both his wife and cat, I have to say “don’t presume to tell me how I feel”.

        4. Ancestor worship only makes sense if you have ancestors worth worshiping. I don’t. Many, many other people don’t, either. At the very least, most of our ancestors here in America were rapacious destroyers of indigenous cultures, avowed sexists, racists, keepers of slaves, and warmongers. This fetishism is unwarranted. My ancestors didn’t sacrifice anything for me…when they sacrificed they did so for themselves and their immediate goals, just like any other group of people; as an American, my ancestors did more sacrifice of others than of themselves, and no, I don’t respect that. You can make the claim that, since without them I wouldn’t be alive, I should at least be thankful for my own life. However, this presumes that my life is worth being grateful about. It isn’t. I have profoundly wished, since childhood, not only to no longer exist, but to have never existed at all. You can, of course, in your condescending way, devalue my personal feelings and experience, and say that even if I don’t feel grateful for the “gift” of life, that I should, but I will simply respond again with “don’t presume to tell me how to feel”.

        5. We wish respect had to be earned, because then it makes respect make sense, but in reality the people who are due the most deference in any society do not “earn” that status, but are given it due to their social roles. Someone has a child, and they are to be respected by that child because they demand that respect and the child is dependent upon them. Students enter a school, and the teachers and administrators expect respect due to their station, and the students are at their mercy; should the student demand that her respect be “earned”, she has simply “earned” detention. The worker who demands their boss “earn” their respect has simply “earned” a firing. The random citizen who demands that the police or government officials “earn” their respect will “earn” anything from getting cited, to getting beaten up, to a lifetime in Guantanamo. Maybe in a perfect culture respect would be earned…but in OUR culture, respect is a function of social roles.

        6. The Golden Rule sounds great…until you remember that people aren’t interchangeable, and neither is how they want to be treated. How you may want to be treated probably differs a great deal from how I want to be treated. In order to apply it, one has to engage in an imaginative act in order to hypothesize “how any normal person would want to be treated”, rather than themselves.

        7. Respect has little to do with morals…just look at how morals, historically, have been enforced in our culture and throughout history. Does being put in stocks or burned at the stake sound respectful? How about being locked in a tiny cell for the rest of your life, surrounded by dangerous people, and forced to poop in front of anyone who happens to walk by? Or to be less extreme, simple social shunning and censure. Your condescension and accusations of cynicism were social censure for breaking up the feel-good party, and they certainly weren’t respectful. As for manners…what exactly does using a succession of tiny forks to eat dinner with, or bowing in particular fashion but not another, or any of the other minutiae of Miss Manners have to do with respect? Social codes exist to maintain social order by creating a set of shared expectations, and manners are simply another social code…utilitarian at best, silly at worst, but in any case having very little, if anything, to do with respect.

        8. And we are back at number five again…the idea that respect is earned, and now we even want to believe that once earned can’t be withheld. Do you really think that the police and judicial system holding Mumia Abu Jamal are treating him with respect? But how could they not, if this little maxim is correct? His cause is that of equality, justice, and freedom. His language is eloquent, his voice beautiful, his arguments both logically valid and emotionally compelling. Most of all, he has kept the faith, through years of abuse and invalidation, writing and doing his recordings no matter what happens. How could respect be any more earned? But how is the man treated, how is he spoken of by his enemies, how is he treated in the media (when they remember him at all)? Doesn’t look like respect to me.

        Now treat me with respect. Either your claims about my cynicism, not understanding what these platitudes are “about”, and general tone of casual dismissal combined with censure are justified, in which case you can rebut my points honestly, logically, and convincingly, or your were just being condescending, believing yourself to be superior automatically simply because I disagree with the happy-shiny rhetoric in the post…which isn’t exactly “respectful”. Which is it? Either I’m wrong, in which case you should be able to show me how I am wrong, or you were being disrespectful.

        Remember, all I did was disagree and explain why I disagreed…which is not, inherently disrespectful. Your words, however, called me out without explaining why what I said was wrong, called me cynical, implied that I am myopic, and in general insulted my entire worldview. I’m sure, since you understand what this is “about” so much better than I do, you should be able to rebut each point perfectly.

        It’s easy to just say “No, you’re wrong”. It’s a lot harder to explain why. I have shown you, and this entire page, my respect by explaining why I believe it to be wrong. Can you do the same?

        And on another note: if these discussions can’t truly be a dialogue, which includes disagreement, then who the hell are you people to be discussing what should or should not be a spiritual value? If the point is just to dictate terms, perhaps you would feel more comfortable in an authoritarian religion.

        • Pythia Theocritos

          I have to say, this was a great response and I did find myself agreeing with a good bit of it. Anyone who knows me is well aware of how I feel about platitudes and while they sound nice, they often stifle dialogue, make enemies out of people who commit the cardinal sin of “disagreeing” and become  cultish egregores designed to create a tenuous unity based on social lying.

          I do think the original blog post is a good one and I can definitely see where some of the ‘virtues’ are those we wish truly were exercised by the majority of polite society, let alone the pagan community; but as Neal has said, the devil is in the details and these kinds of maxims are often misconstrued, or plain twisted, to suit the purposes of the same narcissists and egoists they’re supposed to deter.

          It’s a delicate dance between realism and idealism.

          • Crystal Blanton

            agreed… realism and idealism is always a delicate dance.  And it will be different for each individual.  I think it is not as simple as a set of rules or values for any groups of people… we are more complex than that.  It is more about what your values connect to and how you internalize them.  While clique, the ones I listed are ones I have heard throughout my life (except for the quoted ones) and they connect to something very strong within my family culture.  I have continued to try and develop them so that they are not just a standard phrase… but the point was speaking them as my ancestors would. 

            I think that we lose the ability to take in the information the way that our ancestors would like and as I get older, I see what I have missed more and more.  AND, it is not something that is universal in the greater Pagan community.  It is not my job to put it there but I would like to try and really work to integrate them myself.  And if that trickles down… awesome.  

            I don’t consider any of them platitudes, I see them as words of wisdom from my elders… even though I don’t connect with them all.  I know that if I could connect with them, I might be a better person for it.  

        • Crystal Blanton

          Whew Neal… you really took that to a place I did not originally see that you would.  I am not in a personal position to want to argue with someone about concepts as such nor do I think it is my job to convince someone that I am right.  

          dialog is not always about proving someone right or wrong.  You have a right to agree or disagree with whatever you like… that is not my issue.  I think that people often are sparked by conversations or things that happen that push them to think beyond the words on a computer screen and dig deeper within themselves to identify their own core beliefs.  That is my motivation and also to allow my own thoughts to come out so that I can do the same. 

          It would be against my point in the first place to go point by point to “prove you wrong”.  If you internalize my words as condescending and disrespectful I …. am not sure what to say about that.  In wishing you love and support in finding something meaningful out of the post is disrespectful… that is the type of disrespect that I will subscribe to then.  I will never stop extending support for us all, including myself, to find deeper meaning and personal understanding.  It is the whole reason I blog…. not for you but for me.

          So with that, I hold my respect for myself in not engaging any further unless true dialog is the point and not finger pointing.  For that I am not interested in.  

  • Ted &LuckShop

    Nice post Crystal, I agree that respect is a huge issue of importance now more than ever.