I remember the day as clearly as if it was yesterday. We were standing on the balcony of my brother’s house in the affluent Johannesburg neighborhood of Bryonston. It was a Sunday afternoon. The Spring sun & apparent love among brothers created warmth. Somewhere inside Zuko & his wife were readying lunch. We were enjoying a cool glass of exceptional South African wine. Talking. Sipping each other’s company.
‘What do you value?’ I asked.
‘Respect & Loyalty’, came his answer. ‘Those two are invaluable.’
‘What do they mean’, I asked.
We both looked out over the immaculately manicured garden below. Listened to the sounds of a neighbor diving into the cool water of a private swimingpool.
‘Respect is about allowing other people to be who they are, even if you do not understand.
‘Loyalty is about remaining true, even if you know someone is in the wrong.’
That was his two sentence answer.
An answer perhaps provided too fleetingly for a decade later we’ve not spoken in more than five and a half years. Because he could not respect a decision I made and would not remain true, despite his conviction that what I chose was wrong.
Perhaps these two words warrant more than a two sentence consideration.
They are at the heart of my being – even from before that day.
They have been part of who I am and how I choose, as much as I have made sense of them.
They are beautiful & monstrous all at the same time.
For if you choose to respect one, you may disrespect another.
And if you choose to be loyal to one, you definitely will be disloyal to another.
They are exclusive and yet immensely inclusive for they choose to embrace with undying love for an eternity.
The dictionary explains ‘respect’ as an act.
‘The act of noticing with attention, giving particular consideration and care … ‘
It has nothing to do with fear.
It has everything to do with regard.
It is about valuing someone.
It is about understanding where they come from, what they’ve seen & tasted, where they are going.
Seeing their beauty.
Hidden though it may be.
And acting on that beauty.
Only on that beauty.
Regardless of what their actions may write on the pages of your being.
Living from ‘respect’ is not a ‘key’ to happiness.
It is not a ‘step’ to contentment.
Or ‘making friends & influencing people’.
It is no tool.
It is as rare as racial tolerance in the South Africa of my childhood.
It means you are sometimes a mere spectator.
It needs ‘loyalty’ to bring balance to it.
Else you would respect and walk away.
Respect and abandon.
That would be no respect at all.
I wonder if these to exist? Even in my own little bit of world. My own little bit of being.
For to respect & be loyal something of myself needs to be denied. And if I always loyally respect, but am not respected in loyalty I will soon be consumed by the selfishness of others enlisting me in their cause.
Perhaps it is an art.
To truly respect.
To be loyal till the end.
An art chosen to be practiced & perfected and I am but an apprentice in the master’s studio.
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