As a youngster I was blessed to have spent a fair amount of time with my grandfather. Though he was no angel (nor did he claim to be), he purposefully ingrained in me a number of powerful beliefs that have shaped me as a person over the years. Trace Adkins made a country song popular in recent years describing similar experiences in his youth, with the tag line, “And I thought we were just fishin’.” Me, too.
One of those powerful lessons Granddad taught me was the difference between respect and respectfulness. His occupation was that of a water well driller and windmill man. Thus, he (and for a number of years during my adolescence, we) helped other folks get water to the top of the ground. He/We served those who were wealthy as well as those who were dirt poor. We worked both for the honorable, and the scoundrel. We worked for those of all colors, all beliefs, from all stations in life. Some were very worthy of our respect; others, not so much.
Through our interactions with that vast array of customers, Granddad coached me to understand that respect is something a person earns. Always, and almost intuitively, we understand who deserves our respect, and who doesn’t. We often see those who want our respect, even demand it, go to great lengths to attempt to justify it in our (and their own) minds. Doesn’t work. Respect is something that must be earned, mostly through actions (rarely through words).
On the other hand, Granddad helped me understand the power of treating others respectfully, whether they deserved it or not. We never “win” by treating others disrespectfully, and we almost always raise our standing in the eyes of others when we choose respectfulness as the medium of our interactions. Respectfulness is something that we can (and should) afford all others in our interactions with them (even if they have yet to earn our respect).
Our respect tells the world a great deal about the other person. Our respectfulness toward others tells the world a great deal about us.
And I thought we were just fishin’ (and workin’)…