Prerequisite to Loving Your Neighbor

Posted on August 4, 2016 by Robert Ringer


Over the years, I’ve been fascinated by the lack of self-respect I have observed in so many people with whom I have dealt. It isn’t necessary for a person to tell me that he lacks self-respect. You can see it in his facial expressions and body language; you can hear it in his words and in the tone of his voice.

People who lack self-respect leave clues. Territorial people, for example — who saturate the workplace — always lack self-respect. There are no exceptions to this.

The same is true of people who defile their bodies (e.g., facial tattoos, piercings adorning inappropriate body parts, and pink/purple hair) in order to attract attention. School bullies — a group I have studied in some detail — are also notorious for a lack of self-respect.

If a person dislikes himself and has a low regard for his own abilities, he’s unlikely to respect others. Such a person tends to harbor resentment — even hatred — for people in whom he identifies his own intolerable flaws.

This is why self-love (not narcissism) is the foundation of a peaceful society. If you don’t love yourself, how can you “love thy neighbor as thyself?” As Joshua Liebman phrased it nearly a century ago, “We must have good domestic relations with ourselves before we can have good foreign relations with others.”

How do you learn to overcome feelings of inadequacy and perhaps even a dislike for yourself? Philosophers and psychologists have wrestled with this question for centuries. In truth, there is no simple answer to it, but I do believe there are certain ingredients that are guaranteed to bolster a person’s self-respect. These include:

Ingredient No. 1: Rid yourself of the delusion that people of great wealth and/or fame are superior to you. I’ve known my share of rich and famous people, and have found them, as a group, to be more insecure than the average person.

Which is why you should never allow yourself to become overly impressed by the fame and fortune of others, and never sell yourself short because of someone else’s success. You are a unique human being, and, without even meeting you, I’m certain that you have a number of unique talents.

How do I know that? Because the universe is not a cookie-cutter factory. No two stars are alike, no two snowflakes are alike, and no two human beings are alike.

Ingredient No. 2: A second factor in possessing self-respect is showing respect for others. You don’t have to respect a person’s behavior, but you are morally obliged to respect his time. Which means, first and foremost, being on time when it comes to phone calls, meetings, and other commitments.

When I was just starting out in business, I was notoriously late for appointments. What I recall most about arriving late was that it made me feel inferior. I felt like I was on the defensive before I even entered the room.

On a couple of occasions, when the person with whom I was scheduled to meet refused to see me because of my tardiness, I felt like a bug. Thankfully, the pain ultimately became great enough to motivate me to become obsessed with being early to meetings, telephone appointments, and all other types of commitments.

Today, I usually show up for appointments fifteen to thirty minutes early — sometimes even an hour early if traffic turns out to be much lighter than I expected. I still miscalculate now and then, but it’s rare. And since I usually have my Kindle with me, being early is never a waste of my time.

Ingredient No. 3: If someone doesn’t return your phone calls, it’s the height of rudeness. But from your viewpoint, the important thing to understand is that he is sending you a message that you are a low priority on his “To Do” list. To maintain self-respect, it’s important to deal only with people who demonstrate — through their actions — that they are anxious to deal with you.

Even worse is when you allow yourself to get maneuvered into a position of having to justify your existence. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, make it clear to the other party that you don’t have time to be interrogated — then make your exit.

As an alternative, skip the explanation and just exit immediately. The most important self-respect builder you will ever find is the word “Next!” When you possess self-respect, you recognize that you don’t need any one person or any one deal. You know that you’re independent when you deal only with whom you want, when you want, and, to the extent possible, on your terms.

Ingredient No. 4: Strive to lead a concentric life. By this I mean making certain that your actions align with what you know, in both your mind and heart, to be right. Pretension and hypocrisy are among the most vile human traits, so be vigilant about always displaying the real you.

This often means renouncing childish behavior and accepting adult responsibilities such as marriage, family, and a profession. It means understanding that your actions affect those around you in myriad ways that are not always obvious on the surface.

It’s much like throwing a pebble into a pond and watching increasingly larger ripples form. Every action you take causes ripples that affect many other lives, including those of people you may never even meet.


Above all, remember that self-respect comes from within. You do not have the right to demand respect from others, but you do possess the right to refuse to deal with people who treat you with disrespect. As a general rule, however, the more you demonstrate that you respect yourself, the more likely others are to respect you.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

35 responses to “Prerequisite to Loving Your Neighbor”

  1. Reality Seeker says:

    Good points. Good advice. Good read.

  2. NotPropagandizd says:

    How refreshing to revisit wisdom amidst the sea of moral and behavioral garbage that defines our culture. Thanks.
    And I sure hope you're right about all things Trump. He's a tough one to admire based on meandering rhetoric.

  3. Jeff says:

    Key point: don't think you need to deal with anyone that doesn't give you the respect you know you deserve. True for individuals, true for nations, true for "infidels" against a certain tribe. It is always refreshing to read the common sense of Robert Ringer.

  4. Brian says:

    Awesome article. I will share with my students.

  5. larajf says:

    Well said.

  6. Robert rdiamondesq says:

    So very well stated.

  7. TheLookOut says:

    Another great article – Thanks

  8. val vassay says:

    Great article.

  9. letterman88 says:

    My son recently married a woman with lots of tattoos; full length on one arm, on the thighs, etc. She comes from a very wealthy family. My warnings to my son not to marry were not heeded. Fortunately, my son is very successful and financially independent (he has stated he has a prenup in place). Why would anyone get tatts like these if they had any self-esteem?

    • Nasdaq7 says:

      It seems to be a fashion trend, I hate it as much as the next man, but you know, the young people are completely different to those people that were in their 20s, 10 years ago. We probably have to accept it! 10 years ago, there was no selfies, no smartphones, no facebook, no youtube channels or it had just started! Today they want date as many men as they can!

      • letterman88 says:

        Probably right. I need to forget it and be thankful I taught my son to save, work hard and have a purpose. I've done a good job and he turned out well. Time to let him go live his life.

  10. Lee says:

    I got married at age 20, the year RJR published Winning Through Intimidation. I bought it hardcover with dearly held dollars that same year. Subsequently I bought and read every other book Robert wrote. They're a little worn now but still in my library. In the ensuing 43 years I can say RJR's wisdom has contributed profoundly to my creating a large happy family and a swollen bank account. Robert Ringer continues to this day to supply great wisdom and insights, useful to everyone. One of my favorite things is to gift his writings to anyone I value. I suggest you can do your most valued people a great service by doing the same. I should probably earn a commission on all those books but frankly, my balance sheet still shows I've received so much more value than I paid. Best wishes Robert. Please sir, keep going.

    • Nasdaq7 says:

      It's interesting, my favorite Robert J Ringer quote is: "laser focus", "laser-like focus", whenever I want to make a really important point, I use those terms I borrowed from one of Ringer's books. "We need laser focus on this project."!

    • Gary Waltrip says:

      Lee, I agree whole-heartedly. I've bought every Ringer book, and will buy any that Robert may publish in the future. My all-time favorite is "Looking Out For No. 1." I still have my Ringer books as well.

    • Ronald West says:

      My favorite was Million Dollar Habits. Like you, all of my Robert Ringer books have been read and reread countless times. His advice is timeless.

  11. Gordon says:

    This post is on a totally different topic. I assume that there will be debates this fall, although Hillary may make some excuse and bail. However, I was thinking about what Trump could say in his closing remarks, and came up with the following two-minute summary. I am not a professional speechwriter, and I'm sure there's room for improvement, but here's what I came up with:

    Eight years ago Obama won the election by a comfortable margin on a platform of change. Have things really changed? You decide.

    We're in pretty much the same wars we were then, with no end in sight.

    We are still bailing out the banks and big businesses, paying huge bonuses to the 1%, while shipping jobs overseas and leaving our young people, college degrees and all, competing for jobs as waiters or night-clerks at convenience stores.

    All while the high and mighty get away with crimes that would put normal people in jail for life, but for them, “The evidence is not enough to prosecute.”

    I'm kind of rough. I have a big mouth. I say what I think, and I am NOT politically correct, which offends a lot of people. But the choice in this election is clear. If you like the way things are going, and want four more years of the same, vote for my opponent. She and her husband have collected over fifty million dollars in personal speaking fees from big banks and big business. She is not going to rock that boat. She will keep the wars going, and the dollars flowing for the big defense contractors.

    But if you want someone who will really try to change things, I am your only choice. I don't just give it lip service. You – the common folks of the United States, the ones whose fathers and grandfathers made this country great – you have gotten the raw end of the deal for a long time now, and if things keep going like they have been, it will be even worse for your kids and grandkids.

    If you want real improvement, vote for me as President of the United States, and let's work together to make America great again!

    • Nasdaq7 says:

      Very nice! For me a speech Trump should make, is a speech where he talks about the love for his country because he wants it to be #1. Why the heck can't people see it? He surely has many many mistakes and I am sure he is learning. He's very selfish, very egotistical, doesn't include people like Clinton tries to do, which is a major mistake, he's more exclusive, but he loves his country, that I sense…

    • Ronald West says:

      That's awesome Gordon. Now it is incumbent upon you to see that it falls into Donald's hands, so it doesn't go to waste. It is likely that his speech will largely resemble yours because he is a genius and makes more money than the average bear but just in case he missed it, make sure he gets it. Outstanding! Trump in 2016.

  12. Jay says:

    This one abbreviated sentence stands out the most in the whole article. "Adult responsibilities means understanding that your actions affect those around you in myriad ways that are not always obvious on the surface." That is because life's greatest pleasures and disappointments come from interactions with people. There are no guarantees of the outcome because of how people see, sort, and experience their own worlds. But, like you Robert, I always hope for the best outcomes…

  13. Phil says:

    Thanks Robert. Awesome as always.

  14. Chrissy says:

    Why is it that someone with tattoos have no self-respect? I don't have any because that is not authentic to my own style. But if it is something that feel authentic to them, then it would defy their self-respect not to do it! I agree with everything else you said, but when it comes down to personal style and what people want to do to adorn their own bodies, then I guess I think they have just as much self-esteem as the next person.

    • Ron says:

      Robert said, "And remember self-respect comes from within." Those who respect themselves cncentrate on their character and its outward manifestations. Those who concentrate on outward appearance–often in outrageous expressions–simply appear to have it backward. First impressions are meaningful. Sure, there are exceptions and I have known several. But they had to overcome the first impression of being a shallow person. Why do that to yourself?

      • Chrissy says:

        Yes, self-respect comes from within. And the fact that someone judges you by your outward expression should be of no concern to you. You know who you are and whether you have a good heart. Why should I care what someone's first impression is of me? That would be the opposite of self-respect. Because you will never make another person happy with how you appear, no matter how "conservative" you look, there will always be someone with an opinion otherwise. "Outrageous expression" is simply a matter of your opinion.

    • Ronald West says:

      Oh please. Why else would anyone in their right mind defile their appearance that God gave to them if they had any self respect? Robert is absolutely correct and you simply choose to believe your own bullshit. In your heart, you have to know that you are wrong but simply wish to justify your own bad decisions to get tattoos and poke holes in yourself. Tattoos are there forever and usually childish minds grow up and regret the tattoos they got when they were stoned. I can live with a butterfly or Tazmanian Devil but I personally find evil looking Devil and Snake and full body tattoos offensive and find myself wondering why anyone could defile themselves and think their tattos are beautiful. Yuck! I will never do business with or be friends with a tattoo monger or someone who doesn't respect me enough to take their nose ring out while they ask me for a job. I'll just walk away, so until you change your outlook, you will never rise above a minimum wage job because the reality is that most of the world doesn't share your enthusiasm for self defacement.

  15. Raoul in Colorado says:

    To me, the greatest contemporary example of lack of self-respect are those who blithely allow themselves to be bludgeoned into the conformity of political correctness—those who can only look to the tenants of political correctness for cues for how to act and think. Perhaps that, however, is more a lack of self rather than self- respect—they literally have no real self to not respect.

  16. Scott theczech says:

    I am reminded by this article that, to get the most out of it, you must read this slowly and deliberately. Take time to pause and ruminate on each sentence and paragraph. There are words of wisdom in this piece that are discovered by thinking carefully about it. Like so many of Robert Ringer's articles, this one'a a gem!

  17. richard lee van der says:

    As a former professor of various types and forms of writing, I believe that RR's current essay could be used as an excellent model of how to write an excellent, effective essay. It is, in my opinion, flawless! Excellent writing such as this, from my experience as a reader, and writer, is rare!

  18. Robby Bonfire says:

    The crowd I avoid like the plague is the over-20 baseball cap on backwards crowd. That self-indulgent, narcissistic stupidity is o.k. for kids of 13 who need to conform to "peer pressure" for a few years before they step up to expressing their individuality in positive ways. Nothing repels me more than seeing men of 30-45 aligning with immature kids, in the way they copy eccentric fashion. Pity the woman who is married to an overgrown child like that.

    On the positive side, I notice four wonderful qualities which seem to overlap, in the people who have them…

    1. Good attitude towards life and towards people.

    2 . Good, solid work ethic.

    3. Outstanding social skills.

    4. Trustworthy – these are people you would not think twice about having them visit your home, daily, to
    feed your cats, while you are away on vacation, which is my situation, from time to time, and I am blessed
    to have someone who is reliable, dependable, and trustworthy, in this important respect. Of course this lady
    also possesses the top three qualities, above, so that she has earned my complete trust with my home and
    with my esteemed animal companions, as a result.

  19. Sheila says:

    Wonderful post. Thanx RR.

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  22. circesdad16 says:

    Robert great piece. Reading it feels like my early days with you when reading Looking Out for #1. Actionable pragmatism.

  23. Bryan says:

    Bravo, Robert! As a recruiter for a financial firm, I see so many young people today who have poor self-esteem and a low sense of self-worth. I believe some of this is a result of being brought up in an education system more focused on teaching students what to think rather than how. In a way it robs them of the ability to think on their feet and solve problems for themselves, which we know is the intent of the current agenda in play. Needless to say, I don't recruit many of them. They don't feel secure enough in who they are to work with the autonomy our business model requires; instead they wait for someone to give them something to do. Leadership is a rare quality, indeed, as it requires something that is lacking in many of our young adults today, at least the ones I'm encountering.

  24. Gary Waltrip says:

    I love all four ingredients, but number 4 especially. "It’s much like throwing a pebble into a pond and watching increasingly larger ripples form. Every action you take causes ripples that affect many other lives, including those of people you may never even meet." Robert, you have spiritual or metaphysical insights, many of which you have shared through the years. The above quote is just one more. I treasure these gems.