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First you must respect yourself

Padre James Bhagwan
Thursday, June 21, 2012

When I was a radio broadcaster, working as a producer/presenter on Radio Fiji Three, I had a show called the "Mid-Morning Mix".

I had inherited that time slot from the Late great Maca Tora who had hosted the AM Show with a special women's programme before leaving to be the fulltime "Quiz Mistress" (sorry but I'm not quite sure if there is a politically correct form of that title) on the National Quiz.

So every morning I would take over from Bernadette Rounds Ganilau, who would introduce me as "Sweet Baby James" (the youngest on that particular station). From 10am to 2pm I broadcasted out of "Studio A" in the then hallowed halls of the Fiji Broadcasting Commission, now the revamped Fiji Broadcasting Corporation and home to FBC TV and its radio stations.

Back in those days, broadcasters were more than "personalities".

As a producer/presenter I had the freedom to programme my entire show. This was actually a major responsibility as it was national radio and included reading the news on the combined national network of Radio One, Two and Three at lunch time every day; daunting stuff for a 19-year-old.

I immersed myself in the music, news and information available in the days before the internet.

My music programming was nurtured by Sevanaia DJ Tora, who was the music programmer for Ms. Rounds Ganilau's Early Bird show. This basically means that I would go through all the records that DJ Tora would have selected for the previous show and choose songs that had not been played, and throw a couple of my choices in to ensure I kept to the format of the show.

One day, in the gold vault of FBC which is their audio library, looking for some soul music, I came across a 45rpm record. That's the smaller version of the LP for those who can't remember, and the single version of a vinyl record for those too young to know.

This particular record caught my attention at first by the title "Respect Yourself" and then the artist, Bruce Willis. Yes Bruce Willis the actor!

"Respect Yourself" is the name of a classic soul song originally sung by the American R&B / gospel group, The Staple Singers. Released in late 1971, the song was written by Luther Ingram, a Stax Records singer, and Mack Rice, a Stax house songwriter. The version sung by Bruce Willis, with help from June Pointer of The Pointer Sisters, reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1987.

The story of the song is very interesting, as are its lyrics.

Songwriter Ingram, who was frustrated with the state of the world at the time, told Rice "black folk need to learn to respect themselves."

Rice liked the comment so much that he built a funk groove around it, then gave the song to the Staples, who were also signed to Stax.

The song had resonance for a burgeoning self-empowerment movement for African-Americans during the post-civil-rights-movement 1970s, as well as women demanding more respect during those same years, but the message had a universal and inspirational appeal.

On Sunday, the sermon in church was based on God's creation of man and woman in God's own image (Genesis 1:26-28). The message was that each of us is God's masterpiece.

That's a powerful message even if taken without the spiritual implications. The basic premise of human rights is our inherent human dignity because we are all human beings.

From a Christian perspective, that means we were all created by the same God and we all should see ourselves and then each other in this way. If we respect ourselves, we can respect each other. If we love ourselves, we can truly love our neighbour.

With self-respect, we like ourselves because of who we are and not because of what we can or cannot do.

A study I read about conducted by Harvard University points to the advantages of self-respect. Compared to those with high self-esteem who are still caught in an evaluative framework, those with self-respect are less prone to blame, guilt, regret, lies, secrets and stress.

As a parent, I am naturally concerned that my children have a healthy self-respect and respect for others.

I recently read an online article which said that respect for oneself starts at an early age. Young children naturally show empathy and make attempts to comfort and nurture others. This innate compassion can be tapped to develop life-long traits of self-respect.

According to the article on parenting methods, this is a natural outgrowth of self-respect although it is not always easy. A good start would be to make appreciation lists for each other within the family. Practising being respectful at home develops children who can show respect in the classroom, which gives them a head start socially.

Children of any age often need a caring adult to help them see things to admire in others. When someone extends respect to a child, even in moments when they are acutely aware of faults, the way is opened up to develop the vital ability to forgive.

Forgiving and overlooking faults while seeing strengths is the yeast ingredient in learning to make and keep friendships. This concept gives a hint that when correcting children, there is a need to generate a spirit of respect for them during the process.

That is an important message for parents, teachers, and, in fact, for all of us. The Staple Singers and Bruce Willis put it another, but just as powerful way:

"If you disrespect everybody that you run into; how in the world do you think anybody s'posed to respect you?

"If you don't give a heck about the man with a bible in his hand; just get out the way and let the gentleman do his thing!

"You're the kind of gentleman that wants everything their way. Take the sheet off y'ur face boy; its a brand new day!"

"Respect yourself! Respect yourself! If you don't respect yourself aint nobody gonna give a hoot, a-hoot na na na oh oh! Respect yourself! "If youre walking around thinking that the world owes you something cause you're here; you're going out the world backward, like you did when you first came here.

Keep talking about the president won't stop air pollution. Put your hand over your mouth when you cough; that'll help the solution.

"You cuss around women folk; you dont even know their name. Then you're dumb enough to think that it makes you a big ol' man!

"Respect yourself! Respect yourself! If you don't respect yourself aint nobody gonna give a hoot, a-hoot na na na oh oh! Respect yourself!

"Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity."

* Reverend JS Bhagwan is a Masters in Theology Student at the Methodist Theological University in Seoul, South Korea. Visit the blog or

The views expressed are his and not that of this newspaper.

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