I have always thought, and still do that love is the “greatest of these”. Without love we cannot have empathy, compassion or move into action to help others. Love is crucial to our well-being, as well, it is crucial to life in a civilized society. But what could come right after love in the hierarchy of needs? R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
The church pastor from my child-hood put it so perfectly: “You can grow to love someone you respect, but you cannot necessarily grow to respect someone just because you love them”. This hit me like a ton of bricks. What is the missing element in many relationships? Respect. Having regard for what someone else finds important. I don’t say this loosely, not at all. Anyone who has spent any time at all on planet earth, will have seen or been in situations where respect was not a high priority.
With family and friends, in church, etc. There may be love and fondness to spare, but many times I notice that the way we treat one another does not convey the love we may feel. I catch myself doing this too often. I have to remember love is a verb, an action word.
Am I listening, really hearing others like I should? Or, am I giving my opinion, when all the person really needed was to be heard? Do I find myself correcting others chronically? Do I have to say SOMETHING, anything after someone else makes a statement. I certainly hope I don’t do this one too often, as this particular one drives me up the wall! : )
What I have observed in my own life is this: some of these habits and traits are generational. Like so many things in our lives, breaking cycles of any type of dysfunction takes first knowing that the dysfunction is there. None of us comes from perfect families. No matter how much of a front we try to put up. And most families truly love one another, no matter how many imperfections we share.
So how am I going to improve my “respectability”? Well Paul put it pretty clearly in Philippians 2:3. Think more highly of others than we do ourselves. This does not mean I will become a door mat or a scapegoat. Quite the contrary, the more highly we regard ourselves the more capacity we will have to highly regard others. At least that has been my experience. I catch my self (sometimes) coming across too harshly when giving an instruction. How do I sound to the recipient of my words? Is it how I would like to be spoken to? Sometimes, I would have to say, no. Not at all. How we speak to others many times takes re-learning and a lot of effort. I believe it is worth the time to re-learn these things. There is a wake we leave behind us. That wake can be to the determent or benefit of the people we care for the most.
Respect goes far beyond our homes and families. If we say we are Christians, and some of us do in this society. How are we respecting people who may be completely different from us? Are we motivated by love and respect? Or are we motivated by a need to be right and better than someone else? It is so easy to do. Post something on face book that trashes an entire group of people. People who God loves every bit as much as he loves me. Not respectful. If we remain silent in a group that may be harshly de-valuing others. I need to speak up respectfully. One of my favorite Proverbs in the Bible: Proverbs 25:11 ” A word fitly spoken, is like apples of gold in settings of silver”. Awesome.
My responsibility to others is to respect them for who they are. I am not the holy spirit, I can’t change one thing about anybody. That is not my job. Becoming more Christ-like is my job. If Christ laid down his life for me, then I can certainly treat the others around me ( that he also laid down his life for) with love and respect.
I cannot truly love someone, it would not ring true, if I don’t show them the respect they deserve.