(I can’t think of this word without thinking of the amazing Aretha Franklin!)
Now let’s take a look at what it means to communicate with respect, which is the final part in a healthy foundation of communication (for more on this, check out this resource).
Respect is “communicating worth.”
– EMI’s Listening for Heaven’s Sake, p. 37
I disagree with the phrase “Respect is something earned, not something given.” While respect in the sense of admiration is usually earned, respect in regards to the dignity owed to every human being is never something that someone should have to earn.
Every single one of us, regardless of who we are or what we have done, deserves the basic respect that comes from being created in the image of God. , James 2:1-4, 1 Peter 2:16-17.
Genesis 1:27 tells us that God created people in his own image.
James 2:1-4 entreats us not to show favoritism to people based on their wealth.
1 Peter 2:16-17 calls us to love everyone.
No matter how much someone feels comfortable and empathized with, if they do not feel respected as a human being responsible for their actions and capable of change, then there will be an unhealthy imbalance between the speaker and listener.
When we show we respect someone enough to make their own decisions, that communicates that we value them, and it also helps us to not become their rescuer who is trying to “save” or “fix” them.
Our role in relationships is not to fix people, but to encourage and come alongside one another to help them as they seek wholeness.
Ultimately, the greatest wholeness comes through God who is the only one who can truly fix or save anyone (see Titus 3:5 and Ephesians 2:8).
There is a line between taking other people’s problems on ourselves, and totally rejecting any empathy or involvement with a problem someone is dealing with.
How then can we respect people?
Here is a great acronym taken from page 38 of EMI’s Listening for Heaven’s Sake:
R – Resist using pat answers or manipulation
E- Exercise self-responsibility by “owning” your own perceptions and feelings
S – Suspend critical judgments and conclusions about the person’s feelings or motivations
P – Practice the fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22-23 explains, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
E – Extend yourself appropriately. Be honest about your personal, ethical, and moral limits
C – Consider confidentiality. Show yourself worthy of a person’s confidence by maintaining his or her privacy
T – Take one another seriously. Avoid condescending, patronizing, or belittling attitudes
When we allow God to do the work of fixing people, and we refuse to try to rescue people or “save the day,” then we are able to avoid placing the other person in a place of inferiority, and placing ourselves in a position of hauling the burden of being a savior.
Respecting other people not only communicates that we value them, but it also allows us to better respect ourselves.
I’ll leave you with a quote by Bryant H. McGill: