Archive for the September 2009 Category


The genesis for this essay took place earlier this week when a gentleman highly skilled in the science of computer technology appeared at our home to work on Judy’s computer. I know nothing about computers, so I am left to admire the verbal byplay between my wife and this gentleman. Over the years, this fellow has come here on several occasions to upgrade Judy’s computers and he refuses to accept any compensation beyond what the parts cost. As background information, this gentleman worked for AT&T and for a period of time he reported to Judy, my wife. This occurred perhaps a quarter of a century ago, so both of us have had a long time to consider this man’s skills and his general demeanor. Following the work on the computer, this gentleman engaged in conversation with Judy and myself for a period of time. The conversation took us through German automobiles and to real estate in suburban New Jersey. In every case, whether it was computers, German automobiles, or suburban New Jersey real estate, this fellow had very positive opinions. He left no doubt where he stood on every question and I wondered how it would be to have this fellow as a spouse with such positive conclusions on nearly every subject.

Following his departure, I asked Judy, my wife, whether in all of the years that she had known this fellow anyone had declared affection for him. The answer was immediate. It was, “No.” Obviously they respected his knowledge but he was affectionless in nearly everyone’s eyes. This is not to say that he is to be scorned. That should never be the case. But it brought up the question of the fine line or the wide gulf between those who are technically qualified and announce their thoughts and those of us who are less sure of ourselves.

For example, if I were to ask this gentleman what two plus two equals, he would answer, “Obviously four. That is all there is to it.” Another friend of mine from the great state of Missouri who is not nearly so positive would probably say, “I believe that two and two equal four, but there may be some exceptions.” Clearly there are no exceptions to that small addition. But the fact that one is so positive in his thoughts and that the other is giving room for doubt if someone disagrees with him is of interest and it led to this essay being written. In point of fact, this essay has been dictated, but the difference between dictation and handwriting I hope will not be apparent.

My point is that those of us with great technical skills are to be lauded. But on the other hand, those of us with people skills who possess a germ of humility and humor are going to be beloved. Given a choice, I would suggest that all of us should go with those who are beloved.

There are many examples of this in a variety of fields. In the legislative field, Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah is widely respected for his skill at maneuvering or blocking bills in Congress. On the other hand, Senator Hatch, from what I have seen over the years, is devoid of humility and a sense of humor. Contrast his accomplishments with those of Senator Ted Kennedy. At his funeral, which took place earlier today, there were heartfelt declarations of that belovedness, ranging from small children to elderly folks. Ted Kennedy had a sense of humor and Orrin Hatch has very little. I suspect that there is much to admire in Orrin Hatch, but given a choice, I would say the vote always goes to Ted Kennedy.

To use another example from the sports field, there are Pete Rose and Stan Musial. Over a long career, Pete Rose has become the leader in base hits. He was not a feared hitter who could drive the ball out of the ball park, but on the other hand, it seemed as though every time one looked up, Pete Rose was on base. As it turns out, Pete Rose was found to be gambling on baseball games and has been largely banned from the sport. He will not be admitted to the Hall of Fame.

Stan Musial had an equally long career with the St. Louis Cardinals where he amassed base hits in every form. Wherever Musial goes, he is recognized as a beloved figure. Musial is still alive at age 88 and my hope is that he lives forever. Once again, there is that wide gulf between a man who has mastered the art of base hits as opposed to the man who not only possesses that art but possesses a sense of humility and a sense of humor. In this case, there is no choice but Stan Musial. Pete Rose was respected for what he did, but no one loves him.

In military matters, there are two outstanding examples from World War II. The first involves four-star general George S. Patton, who wore a pistol on each hip. He also at times carried kid gloves in the style of European generals. General Patton produced some amazing results, particularly in the Battle of the Bulge, but I suspect that he was disliked and/or hated by the GIs who did the heavy lifting.

Then there is General Omar Bradley, a native of Missouri, who achieved the same results with much less fanfare. From my personal knowledge, General Bradley had the affection of all of the soldiers of the non-commissioned ranks who served in his armies. I believe that every old GI will tell you that Patton was flamboyant; he drove his men mercilessly to achieve great results. But Omar Bradley achieved equal results with much less fanfare and in the end, General Bradley was a beloved figure. Here again, take the man who is beloved over the flamboyant George Patton.

There are many other examples that can be cited to demonstrate the wide gulf between those who are simply respected and those who are not only respected but admired as well.

I believe that this essay need not go on, because it appears that the point seems to have been made. In this life, there are some of us who are respected and others who are not only respected but loved as well. If you ever have a choice, always go with those who are loved as distinguished from those who are simply respected.

September 6, 2009
Essay 410
Kevin’s commentary: When Machiavelli asked a similar question, he came up with the opposite answer. I have a hunch that the people who would prefer between being respected/feared to being loved are probably the same kind of people who would not be particularly beloved in the first place.