The world is full of ruffians. The world is full of people of good character. Both of those statements are true, I believe, because within most of the people I have known lies the beginning points of both seemingly disparate paths.
Some people are too timid to ever be ruffians, of course, and others too kindhearted, and similarly, some folk are too hard tempered to ever let their good qualities show. But the emotional make-up of most people lies somewhere in the middle, a shape of grey that can be easily darkened or lightened by simple interaction. Race can certainly alter the shade – how well I have seen that since my road led me to the surface! An elf might noticeably flinch at the approach of a dwarf, wh8ile a dwarf might do likewise, or even spot upon the ground, if the situation is reversed.
Those initial impressions are sometimes difficult to overcome, and sometimes become lasting, but beyond race and appearance and other things that we cannot control, I have learned that there are definite decisions that I can make concerning which reaction, I will edge someone else toward.
The key to it all, I believe, is respect.
When I was in Luskan with Wulfgar, we crossed through a tavern full of ruffians, men who used their fists and weapons on an almost daily bases. Yet, another friend of mine, Captain Deudermont of the Sea Sprite, often frequents such taverns, and rarely, very rarely, ever gets into so much as a verbal argument. Why is this? Why would a man such as Deudermont, obviously (as is shown by his dress and manner ) a man of some wealth, and a man of respectable society, as well, not find himself immersed in brawls as regularly as the others? He often goes in alone, and stands quietly at the bar, but though he hardly says a word, he surely stands out among the more common patrons.
Is it fear that holds the ruffians from the man? Are they afraid that if they tangle with Deudermont, they will find retribution at the hands of his crew? Or has Deudermont simply brought with him such a reputation for ferocity as to scare off any potential challengers? Neither, I say. Certainly the captain of the Sea Sprite must be a fine warrior, but that is no deterrent to the thugs of the taverns; indeed, the greatest fighting reputation only invites challenges among those folk. And though Deudermont’s crew is formidable, but all accounts, more powerful and connected men than he, have been found dead in the gutters of Luskan.
No, what keeps Captain Deudermont safe is his ability to show respect for anyone he meets. He is a man of charm, who holds well is personal pride. He grants respect at the outset of a meeting and continues that respect until the person forfeits it. This is very different than the way most people view the world. Most people insists that respect has to be earned, and with many, I have come to observe, earning it is no easy task! Many, and I include Bruenor and Wulfgar in this group, demand that anyone desiring that friendship first earn their respect, and I can understand their point of view, and once believed that I held one similar.
On my journey south on the Sea Sprite, Captain Deudermont taught me better, made me realize, without ever uttering a word on the subject, that demanding of another that he earns your respect is, in of itself, an act of arrogance, a way of self-elevation, implying by its very nature that your respect is worth earning.
Deudemont takes the opposite approach, one of acceptance and one lacking initial judgement. This may seem a subtle alternative but it most certainly is not. Would that the man be anointed king. I say, for he has learned the secret of peace. When Captain Deudermont, dressed in his finery, enters a tavern of common peasant thugs, most within the place, and society at large, would view him as superior. And yet, in his interactions these people, there is no air of superiority about the man at all. In his eyes and in his heart, he is among peers, among other intelligent creatures whose paths have led them to a different – and not better or worse – place than his own. And when Deudermont grants respect to men who would think nothing of cutting his heart out, he disarms them, he takes away whatever reason they might have to found to fight with him.
There is much more to it than that, Captain Deudermont us able to do this because he can honestly attempt to see the world through the eyes of another. He is a man of empathy, a man who revels in the differences of people rather than fearing those differences.
How rich is his life! How full of wonder and how wide of experience!
Captain Deudermont taught these things to me, by example. Respect is one of the most basic needs of reasoning creatures, particularly among men. An insult is just that because it is an assault upon respect, upon esteem, and upon that most dangerous of qualities: pride.
Wo when I meet people now, they do not have to earn my respect. I grant it, willingly and happily, expecting that in doing so I will come to learn even more about the beautiful world around, that my experiences will widen.
Certainly some people will see this as weakness or cowardice, will misconstrue my intentions as sublimation, rather than an acceptable of equal worth. But it is not fear that guides my actions – I have seen far too much of battle to fear it any longer – it is hope.
The hope that I will find another Bruenor, or another Catti-brie, for I have come to known that I can never have to many friends. So I offer you respect, and it will take much for you to lose it. But if you do, if you choose to see it as weakness and seize upon your perceived advantage, well…..
Perhaps I’ll then let you talk with Guenhwyvar.
– Drizzt Du’Urden
Quoted from R.A.Salvatore’s Trilogy The Icewind Dales
I do not know where these words truly come from, but I find thought and reflection within them. They seem to universally bend around topics and areas within the human. Offering no answers, but perspectives which I truly appreciate.