How do I get respect from my peers?

14 September 2010 - 1:57am Comments Off

My colleagues don’t respect me, my family doesn’t respect me, my Dharma brothers and sisters don’t respect me – how can I earn their respect? Thierry Janssens posed this question at the Manjushri Class this Sunday.

Respect is such an imprecise concept, so imprecise that it doesn’t exist as a topic in the Lamrim. Thierry thought about it and came up with questions – what is respect? Why do we want respect? When we think of respect, what is it that we really want? What is our motivation when we want respect?

The only place in the Lamrim where Thierry found something he could directly relate to respect from a worldly perspective is the teaching regarding the eight worldly concerns.

The eight worldly concerns can be broken down into four things we want and four things we do not want. What we want is material gain (money, house, food, material goods). On the other hand, what we do not want is the lack of these things – lack of a car, lack of a shelter, lack of food and lack of material things.

We want pleasurable experiences. We want to go for massages, spas, enjoy intimacy and good food. Conversely, we don’t want pain, to eat horrible things, loneliness. We want praise, nice words and encouragement. We don’t want blame and criticism. Finally, we want a good reputation – we want respect – and we don’t want a bad reputation.

So if we want respect from any of these worldly concerns, we are starting off on the wrong foot. In the first place, why are they called “worldly”? Is it so bad to want praise and want pleasurable things? It is not so much about these things but that all these concerns revolve around “ME”.

It is MY pleasure, MY pain, MY being blamed, ME being praised. This is the main problem with the eight worldly concerns. They are all concerned with the SELF, and are therefore NOT spiritual. These motivations are not spiritual because spirituality is about caring for others. So how do we stop the self-cherishing – me, me, me?

When we are driven by financial gain, we do it at the expense of others. It becomes normal and this is how it is in our worldly lives. Look, for example, at the office – if anything goes wrong at work or if there is a problem, we immediately look for someone to blame. We always want to see WHO was responsible for the mistake. If the person who did something wrong is weak, then everyone else gangs up against him and blames him. Then, sometimes, to avoid blame, we will manipulate, lie or cheat. We become sneaky and play mind games at the expense of someone else.

If we behave out of these eight worldly concerns or if we are getting respect by indulging in actions which hurt others, we need to think again. We must see how we impose on others. Are these experiences we will impose on ourselves later? Because if we don’t fix this, these experiences will come back to us even stronger in the future – this is called karma. We will experience what we impose on others.

So instead of having any of the eight worldly concerns which revolve around “ME”, we can begin to focus on others. In the spiritual sense, we should begin to be concerned about others’ wellbeing.

However, if we simply take care of others out of genuine concern, this is a universal value that everyone respects. It is not just conditional to a group of people who value certain skills.

A simple example: when Buddha started teaching, did he start because he wanted respect? No, he wanted to help others. In the same way, if we really want to think about this more deeply, our motivation is NOT to get respect but to help others. In turn, the motivation to help others out of genuine care WILL get us respect.

If we really care for others, we need to go through open discussion to help others become better. We will also get respect if we do the things we said we would do. If we promise to do something and we don’t, we are deceiving others. We then have to find ways to hide what we have not done, we become sneaky, lie and manipulate. We will not get respect from that. No one respects us eventually.

Then, we should think – eventually, if no one respects me, I will not respect myself either. If everyone looks down at me, how do I even start to respect myself? We think that if we make lots of money, we will get respect from people who value having a lot of money. If we become a very good painter, we will get respect from people who value art. However, if we simply take care of others out of genuine concern, this is a universal value that everyone respects. It is not just conditional to a group of people who value certain skills.

On a daily basis, to get respect from people around us, we should start caring about them instead of waiting for respect to come to us. We should care about our family, our colleagues – especially the ones we don’t like! Consider the example of the very annoying colleague at work – perhaps on Monday, when we get to work, we should say something nice to that person. From there, that person may feel touched and maybe even become less annoying.

We can achieve this better than flashing a new car, new suit or new girlfriend – all of which are ‘faulty’ objects. Instead, we bring results and that is how we can gain respect.

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