“Man’s life would be wretched and confined if it were to miss the candid intimacy developed by mutual trust and esteem” (Edwin Dummer).
IN THE END, IT’S USUALLY ESTEEM THAT GIVES HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS A CHANCE TO BLOSSOM AND BE JOYFUL. If people don’t regard one another with respect, if they don’t look upon one another favorably, if they don’t see the very relationships themselves as a privilege, then many of life’s best qualities are missed. As Edwin Dummer said, our lives would be “wretched and confined” if we missed “the candid intimacy developed by mutual trust and esteem.”
Unfortunately, very few people today exert any effort to esteem those around them. If they ever think about the subject of esteem, it’s usually only “self-esteem” that concerns them, or perhaps the question of whether others esteem them as highly as they would like. Rarely do we raise the issue of whether we are esteeming other people as highly as they deserve. Yet that is mainly where the value of esteem lies.
I have a theory concerning the shortage of genuine esteem in the world, and it has to do with the lifestyle of so many of us nowadays: we live such busy, self-centered lives that we disconnect from those around us and make very little real investment in the lives of anyone other than our own families. And since our relationships cost us so little in terms of time and effort, we have a good deal less appreciation for others than we would if we invested ourselves more sacrificially in them. As Thomas Paine wrote during the American Revolution concerning the prize of political freedom, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.” No less is true in the realm of human relationships. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.
In all of our relationships, esteem ought to be a more highly valued commodity. We need to work on building mutual esteem with those around us, and more importantly, having built it, we need to maintain it. Esteem is fragile and needs our protection. It is far too precious to be destroyed by “a moment’s reckless folly.” So when we’ve learned to esteem others and we’ve lived so that they esteem us, let’s be careful not to tear down what we’ve all worked so hard to build up.
“Raised voices lower esteem. Hot tempers cool friendships. Loose tongues stretch truth. Swelled heads shrink influence. Sharp words dull respect” (William Arthur Ward).