by: Topher Wiles
Our families need respect practiced and modeled. I’ve lived long enough to watch a decline in the cycle of respect in religious, political, educational, entertainment, and familial cultures in America. I believe that much of the same people who complained about the lack of respect given to Barack Obama are many of those who are unwilling to give respect to Donald Trump, and vice versa. Our world follows a mantra that believes respect is earned, and I have witnessed that the requirements to earn it are near impossible.
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I found these eye-opening statistics in a Today Show article from 2009 titled, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Where has it gone?” “Nearly eight in ten Americans (79 percent) say a lack of respect and courtesy is a serious national problem, and most people say it’s getting worse (60 percent). Seventy-three percent say we used to treat one another with greater respect.” From an educators poll on CNBC.com in 2019 of 556 teachers in America, 50% of teachers have considered leaving their profession, and a full 10% of those cite “lack of respect” as the primary reason. Yes, lack of respect is a major problem.
Yet, there is hope for our families and our culture, and hope begins at home.
"R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find out what it means to me." Aretha Franklin attracted droves of followers with these lyrics in her passionate pop plea for honorable treatment. As you look through Aretha's 1967 lyrics, you do indeed find out her meaning of respect. Respect seems to be giving Mrs. Franklin her "propers" in her relationship with her spouse. She defines respect as being maritally faithful and giving her spouse full honesty. Her song is a movement discovering respect through her experience of family life. Faithful honesty is a great starting definition of respect, but R-E-S-P-E-C-T is even more.
The Biblical word “honor” is synonymous with our word, “respect”. It means to give something weight, attention, priority, nobility, or richness. Honor is something we typically give to people who have earned it such as our parents, spouses, and leaders, but Jesus came to show us a better way. In the Bible we are told not only to "You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man," (Lev 19:32a) and "Honor your father and mother,” (Ex 20:12) but we are also told in the New Testament to, "Honor everyone." (1 Pet 2:17a)
When Peter penned those words, I’m sure he struggled with them. Remember, it was Peter swung his sword to cut off someone’s ear at Jesus’ arrest. (Matt 27) As he writes these words he is living in a world in which his faith, his friends, and his church is being persecuted. In the same letter that he says, “Honor everyone” he also shares, “Beloved, don’t be surprised at the fiery trial that comes upon you…” (1 Pet 4:12). Yes, even when being mistreated, the disciples of Jesus call followers to honor everyone. Jesus came to show us that EVERYONE deserves our honor and respect. People deserve to be given faithfulness, honesty, attention, priority, nobleness, and richness because they are made in God’s image. (James 3:6-10)
In our current culture, respect is a gift deserved by all but given by few. Recently I was struck by one of those few as I witnessed the respect of an elderly gentlemen right smack dab in the middle of Sparta, TN. After preaching a funeral, I drove my beater of a truck right behind the hearse on the way to the cemetery north of town. Some people kept driving on the opposite side of the road as the funeral procession came north on Spring St. Most cars pulled over out of respect. Yet one gentleman went beyond, pulled his car over, stood outside of it, and held his hat over his heart while we passed. What did our procession do to receive that respect? Nothing. He was simply living out the New Testament words, “Honor everyone.” What a beautiful model of respect to all the families in the funeral procession!
I believe the cultural cycle of respect can reach an upward swing again and I believe it begins in the family. Here are a few ideas we can start with. With toddlers you can teach respect for others by enforcing unselfish play, putting a few coins in charity boxes or in the collection plate at church, or saying a prayer together for others. When you prompt them to say “Thank you” or open the door for others, you are building a culture of respect. As your children develop conversationally, discourage disparaging remarks about others, even in private. Build respect by working “thank you” notes into their regular routine or schedule acts of service in just as often as you schedule sporting events. Remind your teens that their clothing choices are a way to show respect of unspoken (or written) standards, whether at school, parties, or church. Yes, respect can be taught at home.
Yet, I remind you that we, as parents, aunts, uncles, educators, and community leaders need to do the exact same things in our lives to model respect for children. If we model respect and teach families to rise above this dog-eat-dog world to give respect to everyone, we will see a change in the world around us. Respect begins at home. May you be successful in joining others to build again a community and culture of respect.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, this is what it means to me.
"Show proper respect to everyone." (1 Peter 2:17a NIV)
The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength. Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself. If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.