Friday, October 31, 2008


All of us need to be respected and would like to be respected. To be respected as human beings; to be acknowledged for what we are. Respect has to be earned, but first of all we must respect ourselves, if we don’t how can we expect others to show respect? Someone in a high position may be entitled to respect – the President of the US, for example, certainly deserves respect, but has the incumbent earned it? A company CEO may be entitled to respect, the position indicates that this should be so, but is this so, has he (or she) earned it?

A former High Court Judge may, normally, be entitled to respect but when he arrogantly believes he is above the law and lies to the Court to avoid a $77.00 speeding fine and is then subsequently charged with attempting to pervert the course of Justice - does he deserve respect?

So how does one earn respect? In fact what is respect? Respect is the deference, honour or esteem felt or shown towards a person. It is a quality that is difficult to define because of its subtlety. We all have different ideas about this and may respect someone that others do not. All animals defer to the dominant, or Alpha male in a herd, troop or group of animals or flight of birds. This is a natural and useful attribute to maintain the strength of the gene pool and for the general safety of the group. The Alpha male has t he attributes which the others accept as the ‘best’, in that it may be the biggest, strongest, fastest or it display some other factor which gives it the ability to rise to the top of the ‘pecking order’.

Human beings are much more complicated than this. Many in positions of influence or power – dictators in their own way - are feared and force their followers or subjects to ‘show respect’ by abasing themselves when in their presence. All dictators demand this subservience and abasement, i.e. Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and many others, some in the corporate field. To be truly respected, however, a human being needs to have many attributes, some of them very subtle. This ‘respected’ person must have human qualities of the highest order. These qualities are ones we have all met before – the qualities of Honesty, Justice, Courage, Temperance, Compassion, Kindness, Humility and Love for one’s fellow beings - in other words all the old fashioned virtues! Someone who has these qualities is trusted to keep their word; can be relied on to do the job to the best of their ability; can be called on for help in a dire situation. Anyone who has these qualities to a high degree is revered – think Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and those with long memories may remember the late Dr. Albert Schweitzer.

These qualities are the essence of good relationships with all Life’s forms; they are the essence of ethics, of virtue and of morality. People with these qualities lift the human spirit; by their actions they lead us to greater understanding of what it is to be Human; that Humanity has a grandeur and a nobility that in our wiser moments we may come to acknowledge; that we are all capable of greatness in our own way, given our circumstances; that we must respect ourselves for what we truly are; that we all are better than we believe or think we are.

This is respect. This is what all people honour. This is what we all hope to aspire to.

1 comment:

Brock Atkinson said...

I happen to see the notion of Respect as a social construct, invented by humans as a means of marginalizing others.

Humans have moulded the original idea of respect, and fetishized it to become something much more than it is. Respect and money tend to become the most important achievements of the common businessman.

I don't want to be like that.