Command Respect Don’t Demand It

If you try to grab respect, there is big trouble – for you as well as others.

ravir api na dahati tadrg
yadrk sandahati valuka-nikarah
anyasmal labdha-pado nicah
prayena duhsaho bhavati

 

ravih – Sun; api – even; na – does not; dahati – burn; tadrk – as much; yadrk – as; sandahati – burns; valukanikarah – sand particles; anyasmat – from others; labdhapadah – having obtained a post; nicah – lowly person; prayena – usually; duhsahah – source of great distress; bhavati – becomes

“The sun does not burn as much as the sand (although the sand gets its heat from the sun) Similarly, an unqualified lowly person becomes insufferable after obtaining a post from someone.

– Subhasita-ratna-bhandagara, Durjana-ninda, 116

When people get something without endeavoring for it and without being qualified for it, they often become insufferably arrogant about it. The sand doesn’t endeavor to become hot, but when it gets heat from the sun, it becomes intolerably hot for those walking on it.

Whatever social circle we belong to, we wish to be accepted and respected in it. The healthy way to fulfill this wish is by becoming respectable – that is, by working and living in a committed, honorable way that naturally engenders respect. But some people seek a shortcut. Instead of earning the respect, they want to grab or extort it. This makes them obnoxious and oppressive.

Sometimes people who have recently acquired wealth flaunt it flagrantly. Some such nouveau riche not only show off their wealth, but also mock those who don’t have wealth.

Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Four, narrates the story of the oppressive king Vena. He had the makings of a tyrant right from his childhood. Yet because the previous king had left no other heir, the sages let the heir presumptive ascend the throne. The sages acted in good faith, expecting that the responsibilities of kingship would temper the youth. But Vena started abusing the state machinery to unleash a reign of terror. The sages gave good counsel to get him back on track, but he remained insolent and incorrigible. The sages recognized this and emergency measures were called for. Using their mystic powers, they effortlessly terminated his reign. Using further mystic powers, they arranged to get within the same line a new heir, one who had qualities worthy of a king.

Returning to the starting metaphor, the sand does have the capacity to become hot, but its heat hurts people. Similarly, people may have the talent to acquire some positions, but they also need to have the right temperament – the attitude to serve their team members by contributing through their leadership position. If they don’t have the right temperament, their actions will be more harmful than helpful. Those who give position to others should consider both the talent and the temperament of the candidates. And those aiming for a position should also invest enough time, thought and effort in cultivating the right disposition.

The best way to cultivate the right disposition is by striving for spiritual growth.

When we have not invested in our spiritual growth, we can’t have much inner self-security. This lack makes us seek security through the position we have externally, thereby making us vulnerable to the temptation of demanding respect.

Spiritual growth helps us realize our identity as souls, eternal parts of Krsna. In our relationship with Krsna, we can find the deepest sense of security and self-worth. And with that inner security we can function with maturity and clarity in our outer roles.

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