Sam chedhyasvagne pra cha vardhayemam
uchcha tistha mahate saubhagaya
Mate risannupasattaro agne
brahmanaste yashasah santu manye
- Atharvaveda 2/6/2
O Fire-God Agni! You are resplendent. Make this sacrificer (me) prosperous. Rise for bestowing great fortune. O Agni! May your worshippers never perish. May the singers of your glory be honoured.
The meaning of self-respect is inherent in self-dignity. It is experienced only by those who are conscious of their virtue-based dignity and never deviate from it. Those who care a fig for their dignity and readily stoop low for the slightest gain are always deprived of it. Self-respect is never given by others; it is self-earned. It is not the name of some civic honour, or columns of praise in newspapers. It is a very private experience which takes place in our inner consciousness. The experiencers of this feeling remain happy and contented irrespective of whether or not they are getting worldly laurels. Those bereft of this feeling always suffer from an undefined emptiness and dissatisfaction within inspite of getting all the worldly honours and praises.
To emerge out of this dissatisfaction, the only way is to re-invent self-dignity and redefine self-respect, because the outer identity, of which people are normally aware, is in no way conducive to the process of jivana sadhana.
Normally, respect for the ego or I-sense is taken to be self-respect. Even the smallest slight to the ego is deemed a blow to self-respect. This being so, it is but natural for a 'self-respecting' person to avoid any such activity as will hurt his ego. This erroneous identification has made the society's elite shun physical labour, because this is supposed to be a domain of the downtrodden and the lowly placed; how can the so-called 'respectable' people do it!
From the overlap of ego and self-respect have sprung many evil practices in the realms of individual and social lives. Man is so deeply immersed in false sense of ego regarding caste, clan and lineage that he has detached himself from normal human values and behaviour. In trifling matters his ego gets hurt, and he is bent upon punishing the offender. Of late, new lows have been reached and even killings are being done in the name of protecting the honour of caste and family.
To reverse this perverse trend, it is necessary to redefine a noble emotion like self-respect. Self-respect is the ineffaceable line of normative bounds which must not be violated in any condition. Right conduct and righteous qualities define our self-respect. Noble sentiments and sublime values of life are its symbols. Their correct awareness, unshakable faith in them, and full alertness about the inviolability of their norms exemplify our self-respect. If we act accordingly, we feel honoured in ourselves and experience an exhilarating pride within, while a converse behaviour drags us into the gloom of self-pity and remorse.