Intellectual Self Defence

Brains are delicate things…

Love versus Respect

Kurt Vonnegut gave a lecture in 1986 that included these wonderful lines.

My wife said to me the other day, after a knock‑down drag‑out fight about interior decoration, ‘I don’t love you anymore.’ And I said to her, ‘So, what else is new?’ She really didn’t love me then, which was perfectly normal. She will love me some other time – I think, I hope. It’s possible.

“If she had wanted to terminate the marriage, to carry it past the point of no return, she would have had to say, ‘I don’t RESPECT you anymore.’ Now – that would be terminal.
“One of the many unnecessary American catastrophes going on right now, along with the religious revival and boiling water with plutonium, is all the people who are getting divorced because they don’t love each other any more. That is like trading a car when the ashtrays are full. When you don’t RESPECT your mate anymore – that’s when the transmission is shot and there’s a crack in the engine block.
“I like to think that Jesus said in Aramaic, ‘Ye shall RESPECT one another.’ That would be a sign to me that he really wanted to help us here on earth, and not just in the afterlife. Then again, he had no way of knowing what ludicrously high standards Hollywood was going to set for love. How many people resemble Paul Newman or Meryl Streep?
“‘Ye shall respect one another.’ Now there is something almost anybody in reasonable mental health can do day after day, year in and year out, come one, come all, to everyone’s clear benefit.”

“‘Respect’ does not imply a spectrum of (dangerous) alternatives. Respect is like a light switch. It is either on or off. And if we are no longer able to respect someone, we don’t feel like killing him or her. Our response is restrained. We simply want to make him or her feel like something the cat drug in. Compare making somebody feel like something the cat drug in with Armageddon or World War Three.”

This sermon, a response to Vonnegut is worth a look.

2 comments on “Love versus Respect

  1. Antonio Dias
    January 25, 2011


    It’s amazing how hidden this insight tends to be. As Vonnegut says, this should be THE Commandment!

    The last bit is huge. Love lost leads to bad choices big time! Respect lost is a quiet tragedy and we move on.

  2. Pingback: Higher Ground: Sarcasm, Contempt and the Supreme Asshole Move «

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