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June 23, 2020
Aretha Franklin - Wikipedia

In 1967, the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, released a hit that has stood the test of time. “Respect.” If you’re not a Baby Boomer, you might not have ever heard it. Unless your parents had the good sense to introduce to the really good stuff… If you’ve never heard it, or if you just want to hear the good stuff again, here it is. It’s way worth the click:

“Respect” became an anthem for civil rights. It’s the heartbeat (I mean the genuine one) for the movement that literally rocked the country in the 60s and 70s. I think it needs to become an anthem for 2020.

There’s a lot of passion, a ton of emotion, lots of action in our world today, but respect is in short supply. This is obvious if you watch cable news of any kind. They splatter the conflict and division all over your screen at least 48 times in a 24-hour time period. They have to. In order to sell advertising, they’ve got to keep your attention for all 24 hours of the day and night. And, frankly, there’s not enough actual news happening all 24 hours to fill the time, so they just repeat the loop as many times as they need to in order to fill the time. And sell the ads.

I have a huge bias against what has come to be called the Main Stream Media (MSM). I fyou think it’s great, that’s your business. But what I’m writing about today isn’t about the MSM. I have absolutely zero control over that. I don’t even have any significant influence over it. The best I can do in either of these categories is to just not watch it. So I don’t. It assists my recovery from depression and anxiety. And I’m not joking about that.

What I’m writing about today is the lack of respect in marriages, families, relationships in general. Disrespect and lack of respect (which is pretty much the same thing) are endemic in all of these contexts. And wherever you find disrespect or lack of respect, you’ll find anger, resentment, bitterness, malice. It sucks the life and health out of every relationship.

Let me get biblical. St. Peter wrote this in his first letter to some churches in Asia (what is today Turkey): But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 1:15 NIV)

It’s the last word in this verse that I’m talking about. The last three words, actually. Gentleness and respect.

Peter is applying these two attitudes specifically to how we bear witness for Christ, but I think they are also big keys in relationship health. Is there a relationship that won’t be strengthened by gentleness and respect? The answer is No.

In family life, there are times when gentleness and respect feel like the last thing that’ll work. Getting that kid to stop throwing a tantrum and pulling stuff off the shelves at the grocery store probably happen by you tenderly appealing to them to stop. You may have to be very direct, even forceful. You may have to punish them to get their attention so that you can discipline them. I’ve never known a kid who didn’t need to be punished and then disciplined. Sometimes that won’t feel very gentle or respectful to them (or you). Believe it or not, though, effective punishment and discipline can happen with gentleness and respect.

You won’t be able to pull this off if you’re driven by anger and frustration. These two things rarely produce gentleness and respect. I can’t think of a time when they ever did in my life, anyway. In my experience, I have to somehow push the anger and frustration back before I can be gentle and respectful.

Gentleness carries a few things in its meaning. Calmness is one. This is why anger and frustration are generally hindrances to it.

It’s also about kindness and carefulness. Neither of these are assisted by anger and frustration.

And then there’s the word I started with, respect. One of the things that’s in short supply in our culture today, and sadly, in families, too.

You already know what respect means, right? I was a little surprised that it took me some thought to come up with a decent definition of it. What’s yours?

Well, I looked it up in Merriam Webster and got two important words that are connected to it. Consideration and Esteem. As with gentleness, anger and frustration virtually never promote either consideration or esteem. When I’m angry and/or frustrated, pretty much the last things I’ve got in my mind would be consideration and esteem.

Consideration’s root is “consider.” This means to think about. In fact, it means to think deeply about something. One doesn’t consider something with a cursory glance. It’s impossible to consider something without focusing on it, and that usually means slowing down and pushing the other noise aside. Which is one reason it happens rarely.

Esteem is all about value. To whatever extent I value you, that’s the extent of my esteem for you.

It’s not rocket science.

So why is it so hard to be gentle and respectful?

It’s not just one or two things. There are lots of reasons why it’s so hard. But there are a couple that I think may be at the heart of it. The first is PRIDE. Pride will always be a barrier to gentleness and respect, because it always puts me first. That makes esteem difficult and consideration unnecessary. I think you can make a pretty good case for the idea that pride is the root sin of all sin.

The second thing is HABIT. There are those blessed few people whose temperament and upbringing have shaped them so that they’re gentle and respectful instinctively. The rest of us have to work to cultivate these two noble characteristics.

We live in a world that doesn’t promote this habit. The number one habit it promotes is “Hurry up.” The number two habit is “Get what you want.” They often gang up and say “Hurry up and get what you want!” Godly habits will never accidentally take hold in that environment.

Being gentle and respectful will go against the flow. It did in Peter’s day. Why else would he have pointed them out as he did? They’re against the flow in our day. And if we want them to emerge in our habits of life, it will require an attenuation of our intention. We don’t flip a switch for these things to be in the fabric of our lives. We weave them into it through the agency of daily habit.

So here’s my challenge. Offer a prayer for God to pour out His grace on you so that in partnership with Him, you can begin to build the habit of responding to the people in your life with gentleness and respect. Then cooperate with Him and His grace by being intentional about focusing on gentleness and respect. Start there, and see what God will do with that.

From → Marriage, Parenting

One Comment
  1. Dana Leong permalink

    Dear Lisa, I think you do pretty well in this “respect”. I just thought it was a good article, as most of his are.  How are you doing?  I’m doing good going off the Depakote.  I feel less fatigued and I feel like I can breathe easier.  so far, so good. Dana

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