Stuart Alan Becker, Group Business Editor of the Post, writes on the fundamentals of human exchange in business.
One of the most important concepts in human affairs is respect.
The Oxford English Dictionary calls it “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements”. The origin is from the Latin “respectus”, which means to “look back at” or “regard”, with “re” meaning “back” and “specere” meaning “look at”.
Respecting someone is distinct from liking someone or loving someone. You could love someone but not respect them, like an unruly child or an insane grandmother.
Used as a verb, you may give respect to the prime minister or the king or to your mother for taking care of you all those years. You may also respect the innocence of a child, the virtue of a woman, the dignity of another human being. You may respect the laws and customs of your society and of other cultures. You may respect the religions of others.
What’s important to me about respect is remembering that it is not about dancing around the celebrity of another person, but rather the acknowledgement of a person for who and what they are: a treatment based on acceptance and acknowledgement. This works for all ages, occupations, nationalities, ethnic origins and works equally for males and females.
From construction worker to king, from cleaning lady to prime minister, the automatic gift of respect to another person, regardless of their worldly wealth or honours, whether it be a kid on a bicycle in the province or a tycoon in a Rolls Royce, all deserve your respect. As you give respect, so will you get it.
For example, all religions teach respect for elders, and for good reason. People who have lived a long time have gained experience and experience pays real dividends in life. Once you’ve been through the experience of living and working with other human beings over a sustained period of time and have survived, we can make some assumptions about you.
We can assume that you have conducted yourself in a reasonable enough manner such that you have not been beaten without mercy by mobs of angry others and that you have found a way to exchange your labour for your sustenance, by whatever means you could find. This is to your credit in the human family.
You’ve been thrown into life courtesy of the genetic endowments provided by your parents, but apart from the care and feeding provided during your infancy and hopefully some help along the way, you are pretty much the sole architect of your own life.
Even if you’re a rich kid, born into incredible privilege, there’s still pressure on you from your rich parents to behave in certain ways, not make your family look bad, go to the right schools, marry the right girl from the right family; the list goes on. There’s no escape from the paradigm of respect no matter how much or how little money you or your family have.
Therefore, respect is something you earn by living your life successfully in the company of other people. Other people know how difficult things are. They will respect you for overcoming obstacles and reaching your goals. Other people are humans just like you and when you face yourself in the mirror and you honestly have admiration for the reflection you see, other people will too. That’s guaranteed.
People who show you disrespect, for whatever reason: Don’t worry about them. They also show others disrespect, and my very good readers, those who disrespect others will be taught the true meaning of disrespect.
One of the great teachers of my life was David Roads, 1921-2008, a half-Pawnee Indian boy from Colorado who served in the United States Marine Corps’ Sixth Division in World War II, fighting against the Imperial Japanese Army on the Pacific islands.
He rose in rank from private to full-bird colonel during that Pacific campaign and was the sole survivor of several battles. He also fought in the Battle for Shuri Castle during the Battle for Okinawa, the bloodiest battle of the war.
He was a gentle, kind man who had lived through the horrors of war and came out stronger on the other side. He had to work at becoming less dangerous. He woke up one night in 1945 with his hands around his sister’s neck, scaring the hell out of her, but he made it his business to rehabilitate back to normal life behaviour.
He later opposed the Vietnam War on humanitarian grounds. He respected people and he got respect back in spades. I remember one ship’s captain in Hong Kong who saved a seat for him at a favourite lunch place “in case he decided to have lunch here”.
When someone who is greatly respected respects you, little old ordinary you, it brings you way up high. When you are respected by the deeply respectable that means you are chosen for better things; that your life has meaning and that you are not only worthy of the respect of others, but that you are a giver of respect to others.
Respect wins. Giving the gift of respect to yourself is the greatest you could give. Once you have the means to provide that gift to yourself, you have the means to provide it to others.
To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at [email protected]