Baha’u’llah sets a high standard when he asks us to be respectful toward others no matter what they say or how they behave. In other places, he counsels us to be humble before others, such in Arabic hidden word 30: “Deny not My servant should he ask anything from thee, for his face is My face; be then abashed before Me.” And he asks us to be content with the believers: “Whoever is content with God, his lord, will be content with his servants… For a servant’s satisfaction with God cannot be demonstrated save by his satisfaction with the friends of God, who have detached themselves from everything but God and depended on him.” City of Radiant Acquiescence
I have discovered a passage from Baha’u’llah in which he sheds more light on this matter, explaining how to think the matter through so it becomes rational to act respectfully despite the inner challenge to do so. I found this passage, oddly enough, in an old translation in the book Baha’i Scriptures. Here is the passage:
“A discerning man will suffer no defect in any matter; all that may happen will indicate his greatness of station and purity of character. For instance, if a person humbles himself for the sake of God before the friends of God, this is humbleness shown to the True One Himself; for this is done by the one as consideration of the other’s faith in God. Hence to be humble for the sake of God before another means to be humble before God Himself. In this case, if the other does not behave in like manner, or if he shows forth haughtiness, the discerning man will attain to the loftiness of his own action and to the reward thereof; while the detriment in the action of the other one will return to the latter himself. Likewise, if any one acts with haughtiness, that haughtiness will be directed to the True One. We seek refuge in God from such, O ye possessors of intelligence!”EXTRACT FROM THE TABLET REVEALED BY BAHA’U’LLÁH TO HIS HONOR, M. ‘ALÍ, in Baha’i Scriptures pp 133-5
For me, the important point Baha’u’llah makes is that acting out of respect is done out of consideration for the other person’s faith in God. It isn’t done because the person deserves it. It is done out of regard for the divine in them. This is a reminder that we have to accommodate, to the point of being content, another person’s way of seeing the Faith, for it is the expression of their faith in God. Who are we to say it is wrong, when it is right for them in their circumstances?
Next, Baha’u’llah spells out the logic of the situation in terms of punishment for acting badly toward someone. The principle is that however a person acts, it always comes back onto the one acting; it is never possible for a person to invoke bad fortune for another simply by cursing them. For example, you cannot make a person go to hell by accusing them of being a covenant breaker and enemy of the Faith. When you are angered by someone, it is easy to fool yourself into thinking that nasty words will hurt them. But that’s not the case; you only hurt yourself. The principle is that what comes out of your own mouth always comes back onto yourself in the form of reward or punishment. Therefore, if you act with respect, that will come back as reward, and if the other person abuses you, that will come back as their punishment. Whatever you do, it will be done to God.