By Luke Benfield
In working with Greeks for the past four years as a Fraternity/Sorority Advisor, the consistent rationale I’ve heard for hazing new members is to create a respect for the initiated guys. “Hazing is the only way they’ll respect the brothers,” “They won’t do anything unless we make them,” or so I’ve been told. Sure, we should have a certain level of admiration for those who have more experience than we do, but there is a fundamental difference between earned and forced respect.
Experts in human motivational factors tell us that the quickest way for someone to gain the attention and focus of another person is through violence. It’s a shortcut with virtually no long-term benefits. In addition, as soon as a forced reaction can be avoided, it will. The same thing goes for respect. If we automatically force someone to respect us, we will not only fail to truly gain their respect, but we will also spend more time and frustration forcing it, than we would in earning it.
How can we earn respect, particularly in the context of fraternity membership? In case you’re wondering, no, you do not have to have that 4.0 GPA, or be the president of your Chapter. You don’t have to necessarily hold a position, or be the best recruiter. People pay more attention to your approach and attitude towards life than they do your title or your Bond number. Think about the people you truly respect. I’ll venture to say you trust them, not because they told you to, but because they have a history of performance, of dependability, and integrity. They tell you they will do something or believe in something, and they follow through with those claims. In essence, to gain respect you only have to be a man of your word.
Earning respect can be broken down to a simple equation:
Respect = Beliefs(Words + Actions)
Basically, respect is the result of others witnessing how our words and actions exhibit our beliefs. In relation to the equation, if our words and actions are both positive factors, then multiplying the sum of words and actions by our beliefs will yield a positive product. However, if the sum of our words and actions is negative, then multiplying that sum by our beliefs will result in a negative product. Therefore, respect can either be a positive or negative product based upon the impact of our words and actions on what we believe.
So what does this all mean? If we want to gain respect as people, and in relation to Fraternities, as men, then our words and actions must positively exhibit our beliefs. However, if we want to lose the respect of others, then we simply must not be men of our words. We should just contradict what we say we exemplify. Sound familiar?
I believe the Respect Equation has innumerable applications to the great concern for instilling respect in new members for the initiated brothers. If you want respect, you have to EARN it. Think about your last Phikeia class. What did you do to earn their respect? Did you pull your weight within the Chapter? Did you attend Phikeia meetings to offer insight and teach the men about the great organization they’ve recently joined? Were you an effective big brother? Did you teach the younger guys life lessons? If you preach your minimum GPA to be initiated, do you meet that requirement as well? More importantly, what have you done to prove yourself to them? The fact that you have a Bond number does not mean you have reached the pinnacle of membership and the ground you walk on should be worshiped.
The fact is that the experience begins with initiation. Throughout the membership experience we should be focused on exploring the mysteries of Phi Delta Theta and discovering who we are, and who we aspire to be, as individuals who pledge to live a life rooted in the Three Cardinal Principles. As a result of this pursuit, we gain not only the knowledge of self-discovery, but I would venture to say the respect of others as well. We have an obligation to teach these essential lessons to our new members, and we do that by exhibiting the results of those lessons, by pursuing a positive product within the Respect Equation.
If you want to foster an environment of respect in your Chapters and do so in a way that doesn’t involve hazing, challenge the membership to follow the Respect Equation and earn it. Take the higher road and be men of your words. I guarantee you’ll be impressed with the results.
As the Director of Education, Brother Luke Benfield is the newest addition to the General Headquarters team. Luke is a member from the Georgia Gamma Chapter at Mercer University. He has a bachelor’s degree in English literature and economics, as well as a master’s degree in educational leadership. Before coming to GHQ, Luke was the Fraternity and Sorority Life Advisor at Coastal Carolina University, as well as the IFC advisor at Florida Gulf Coast University in graduate school.