Night Dialogues

SELF-RESPECT IS THE KEY INDICATOR of our integrity as a person. Without personal integrity, it is impossible to have integrity in leading others.

Defining self-respect is difficult, yet it is the most important of all forms of respect. It is the foundation of our accepting any other respect. We feel tentative about the respect that comes from others until we genuinely respect ourselves.

After I spoke to a group of corporate officers, several of us gathered around for a bull session. One of the ceos, with his tongue loosened by spirits from a bottle, said, "Fred, you talk a lot about self-respect. How do you define it?"

"I can't give you a dictionary definition," I said, "but I can tell you how I know I've got it. When I wake up at three o'clock in the morning, I talk to the little guy inside me who is still simple, honest, and knows right from wrong. He hasn't rationalized enough to become sophisticated. He still sees things in black and white. He is the 'honest me.' When we can talk freely, ...

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