If respect had anything to do with position, then shorter people like me wouldn’t stand a chance in life. The fact is, respect has to be earned the old-fashioned way. Before Philip Pillsbury became the chairman of Pillsbury Co., he worked his way to the top from the ground level. He started as a journeyman grain miller and eventually took sales and management positions in the company.

Unlike many executives, Philip Pillsbury was not known for simply calling the shots at the company. He certainly had the ability to do this, but he also had a reputation for rolling up his sleeves and getting involved in the work of common employees. As evidence of Pillsbury’s strong work ethic, the tips of three of his fingers were missing because of his work in the grain mills. Everyone at the company knew that he was no stranger to hard work, and they respected him for it.

Philip Pillsbury didn’t demand that other people respect him once he became president of the company. Sure, his position deserved respect. But he gained the support and recognition of his managers and co-workers only after he earned it. The same is true for you and me at home, at church, at work, and in our communities. If we want respect, we have to prove ourselves first before we can demand it from others. Think about how Jesus, the Creator of the universe, lived. He said He came not to be served, but to serve others. He proved that having a servant’s heart is one of the most important attributes of any leader.

Are you the kind of man who demands respect from your wife and children simply because you’re the head of the house? Maybe you are a concerned citizen who wants your voice to be heard so you can influence your local politicians, but you don’t participate in town hall meetings or vote. If you want respect, you have to earn it. Selflessly love your family. Support the politicians who hold your views — and you will earn their respect.

Devotional by Dr. James A. Scudder