23 06 2012

We had a thought-provoking discussion in our weekly leadership/mentoring time today.  A good deal of our interaction concerned the concept of respect.  Respect is something that is often misunderstood, confused with deference.  Let me explain.

Deference is the perfunctory and appropriate behavior we manifest towards position, authority and station in life.  We may not, for example, agree with Attorney General Eric Holder’s behavior this past week as he was called to Congressional account over what he and the Department of Justice knew regarding the Fast and Furious debacle.  But we address him as “Mr. Attorney General” or simply “General.”  That is deference.  It is inappropriate to use a Congressional hearing to grandstand and needlessly demean the AG.  Same goes for White House press conferences.  You may not like President Obama—or any of his predecessors—but heckling him in public is inappropriate and unprofessional.  So is flipping off the portrait of the late President Ronald Reagan.  You defer to the office he occupies and give it due weight.  That is deference.

Respect, on the other hand, is rather an instinctual behavior, like sweating in hot, humid weather.  The gain or loss of respect is predicated on the presence or absence of integrity.  Put another way, deference is given; respect is earned.   It is an automatic response to the practice of integrity.

This is the way of life.  I’ve watched men in high office—political, corporate and ecclesiastical—demand respect without manifesting the kind of behavior that entitles them to respect.  It is unedifying to say the least and breeds cynicism in their constituents.  If you want respect, you’ve got to pay your dues.  They are substantial.  Respect is always earned.

I’ve both gained and lost the respect of people, especially those closest to me, over forty-eight years of life.  This has always been in just proportion to my integrity or lack of it.  It’s no use for me to whine about “not getting respect” if I’ve not dug deep and won it.  There are no shortcuts.

How then does one win this prize, something essential to all human beings and particularly important to males?

  • Walk in integrity.  If you profess a creed, certain values and expectations, you must back these up with the currency of consistency.  You cannot keep two sets of books.  Be one person.  Not two or four or a dozen.  What you are in public must equate what you are when you are outside of public view, in the crucible of the secret place.
  • When you blow it, admit it. No equivocation.  No excuses.  No blame-shifting.  If you screw up, own it.  All of it.  And say you’re sorry and rebuild.  Apologizing and amending one’s ways with earnestness begins building respect immediately.
  • Realize that you cannot mandate an instinctive behavior.  You can say, “I am your father and you will not speak to me that way” to a mouthy child.  That is fair and right.  But when someone calls you out for your failures, you are not authorized to pull rank to avoid dealing with your transgressions.  If you do, you are a fool.  A fool cubed.

This prize is worth fighting for.  Be true, humble, and serve.  You’ll earn more respect than you know what to do with.

Image Credit




4 responses

23 06 2012

Sadly, deference is lacking in this generation, let alone respect. I’ll do the best I can to pass it on to my kids and hope others are with theirs.

24 06 2012
Christian Fahey

It is true, Moon. Sad that it is so lacking. We must pass it on. Thanks for reading bro!

24 06 2012

I know we already talked about that whole thing, but again, great job Chris, and thanks man…

24 06 2012
Christian Fahey

Anytime Rob. It was a great discussion. Thanks for stopping by!

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