Respect makes you observe the person, opens you to allowing fundamental changes in yourself through close observation of the person, criticising the person and disagreeing with him. Reverence makes you do either or both of the following:
- follow a person with blind faith, which essentially amounts to expecting to enjoy benefits from the moral standards of the other person without necessarily having to follow them yourself
- makes you merely worship him, which is the same as closing yourself from answering for deviating, in the garb of false humility, from the standards (followed by the object of your reverence) which you know you should follow.
The side-effects of confusing reverence with respect may be more serious than meets the eye directly. One of the most glaring examples is that of spiritual gurus.
Reverence is based on a radical maxim that deepest insights -- typically spiritual in nature -- can be imbibed from outside of oneself, somewhat similar in principle to a company which tries to grow and flourish by acquiring another company. Spiritual growth, as per me, can happen only organically, through self-discovery.
Spiritual gurus often start their onslaught by saying that following them will lead to strengthening of your spiritual energies, which will then lead to great strides in spiritual growth. However, this often leads to a life full of rituals, all in the name of spiritual practices. The promised spiritual growth, which by definition, is very elusive and immeasurable, never happens. Instead, the person is drawn further away from people with habits and beliefs not aligned with the ways prescribed by the guru. This alienations starts at a social and behavioural level, proceeds through being intellectual alienation, and ends up by snapping emotional connection with anyone or any group which disagrees or dissents. This is the first step in the direction of radicalisation and intolerance.
The succour comes from the fact that disciples of the guru, going through similar experiences, are drawn closer and closer to each other. It is based on agreement in habits and ways of daily life, but eventually grows into alignment in beliefs and thoughts. This creates intellectual ghettos -- a bunch of disciples who are guaranteed to never disagree with the majority, and with overflowing eagerness to see their guru's statements proving to be true. The force which drives these people is infinite, inexplicable reverence for a so-called guide. External references are accepted only to the extent that they don't fall foul with whatever has been said by the guru. Such interactions between disciples can only create superstitions and pseudo-science: stories of air-travel and nuclear warfare being invented in India, astrology, energy fields around human bodies etc. etc. etc. Any inferences and conclusions drawn in interactions happening within such ghettos is intellectually mimed and very predictable. The basic standards of critical analysis, debates and scepticism are hardly met to allow any serious debate, and give no intellectual credence to these agreements.
These disciples keep reassuring each other that they continue to be the mild and modest people as they were; that no radicalisation has happened. And yet, here you have created, a fertile ground for raising an army of faithful ferocious soldiers who will use everything in their reach -- weapons or words -- to stamp out any voice of disagreements which dare question the absolute authority of the guru.
In short: Respect. Don't Revere.