Recently I said I was going to share the new book content with you, just like I did with The Respect Dare (Nelson, 2012) and 12 Truths to Change Your Marriage (Greater Impact, 2016). This is my gift to you. I am wildly interested in feedback about the book here on the blog, btw. I’m not sharing the whole introduction here, but rather moving into the “guts” of it. Too long for a blog post! 🙂 Don’t worry, the dares will be much shorter, just like The Respect Dare! Know also I’m fine with you sharing the posts, and they are being written for husbands and wives.
And so it begins…
Within all of us there seems to be a natural longing for relational intimacy. Something that results in the feeling of deeply knowing and being known by someone else. At the beginning of this journey (Strength & Dignity eCourse), people said they felt lonely, stressed, anxious, pressured, worthless, ineffective, taken advantage of, like a failure, etc., like nothing they did could change their relationship, had no hope of ever feeling safe much less energized and spurred on, but eventually found God and themselves as a result of their desperation and hard work. Let’s acknowledge that it is normal and healthy to long for a relationship connection.
As a result of my own journey, the research, and the incredible experiences with class members, I landed on something I call the 7 Pillars of Mutual Respect. The first pillar is really the goal of everything we are about to do. Before we talk much about this pillar, however, there are some things you need to know.
Because Greater Impact is a spiritually-based non-profit, this first pillar contains some language that might feel uncomfortable to you if you aren’t a person of faith. Please know it is not my intent to offend, but rather share what we do and what works for the people in our classes. We believe we are wired as spiritual beings, but regardless of your own religious beliefs about this, we can also rely on the research. Jesus was a great leader with a large following – regardless of your personal opinion about him, he was a great leader and science now supports many of the principles he taught.
Dr. Jim Loehr is a world-renowned performance psychologist, Co-Founder of the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, and author of 16 books. I had the privilege of hearing him speak at the Leadercast conference in 2018, and he shared with us the research that backs up the “solid moral character” element in the first pillar. Dr. Loehr has spent decades studying top performers like NASA astronauts, CEO’s, Nobel Prize winners, Olympic athletes, etc. He has collected data on over 100,000 people over the course of thirty years. Bottom line? His research showed consistently that having a strong moral code was the most common determining factor of a person’s health, financial success, and relational success. Coincidentally, these character traits are greatly espoused for followers of Jesus. No matter where you are spiritually, no matter where you feel your solid moral character comes from, the data supports these steps in our journey.
To the extent that my identity is wrapped up in my relationship with God, I respect myself and as a result, others respect me too.
Google tells us respect is a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
Here’s another definition from Dictionary.com: esteem for or sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability.
Based on what I’ve experienced of God and the Bible, I define “respect” as simply understanding and acting upon the innate (God-given) preciousness of others.
Do you notice differences between these definitions? I get told nearly daily by people that they don’t really know what respect is. Neither gender seems to know how to both simultaneously and consistently respect themselves and others. In our “all or nothing” “black and white thinking” American culture, it doesn’t surprise me that we seem to look at respect as “my rights” or “their rights” and this breaks my heart. Given that we are all made “in the image of God” you’d think this would all be easier. Surely it’s a no-brainer that something made in God’s image is worthy of respect… right? Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
Our culture has several mantras about respect. It tells us that respect is to be earned, to respect ourselves, and show a little respect. I get this – I grew up understanding it that way, too! When I found myself in the real world, however, I realized that the more I “stood up for my rights,” the more it was like throwing gasoline on someone else’s fire. Unfortunately, most “assertiveness training” does a great job of making people more aggressive. My dad showed me a completely different approach, one based on the premise that everyone is worth treating well, that people didn’t have to live in conflict and could actually connect during difficult conversations. He read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People at the young age of 17, and it opened his eyes to a whole new way of interacting. I didn’t learn this about him until I started working for Dale Carnegie Training in 1990, spending a wildly fun fifteen years at a great company.
Back to my dad – I had the privilege of working for him from age thirteen into my early twenties. He ran a couple of radio stations in Montana, and I marveled at his ability to treat people behaving badly well while drawing them to a higher standard of being. I even heard him fire someone and the man thanked him on the way out (my desk was outside his office and I could hear).
He was gentle and patient while firm – respectful of himself and others at the same time. I take issue with the way culture officially defines respect because it is based on two things: other people’s behaviors (qualities, abilities, achievements) and the way we feel about those behaviors. I would rather function on the premise that ALL people are of value and have worth, which brings in the thought of God’s opinion of each of us – culture will assign different levels of value and worth to people, God, on the other hand, decided we were ALL of extreme value to Him. To demonstrate this incredible love, while we were a hot mess of childish behavior, He gave His Son to pave the way for us to be with Him, now and forever. That’s a whole other story, but it represents the driving force underneath this book – that all people are extremely worthy of love and respect because we are all equally precious to God.
Operating on the moral assumption of the value of people is also at the core of good human relationships. If I am a respectful person, then the respect I give others is based on the kind of person I am and reliant upon the values I hold, not based on their behavior. I align myself with a moral value and positive character trait of “all people are of equal high worth.” While I agree that people can behave disrespectfully (and since I am not perfect, I’m sometimes disrespectful, too), I don’t want to be classified as a disrespectful person.
Respectful people consider ALL people as having value. Someone else’s behavior shouldn’t cause me to behave disrespectfully to them if I am a respectful person. Doing this in my parenting has caused us to travel through the challenging teen years without rebellion issues – and my dad modeled and taught the message for me as his teen. I remember sitting in a restaurant with my father one time when the service had been somewhat subpar. In all my 17-year-old wisdom I asked him, “Why are you so polite to the wait staff? They are here to serve us and should be the ones being polite, especially since they’ve botched our order and the waitress seems like we’re a bother to her or something.” He looked at me and his eyes crinkled up in a heartwarming smile. “Honey, anyone can be polite to people with power and position, but it takes a person of truly good character to be kind to someone who can do nothing for them.” Whoa. I later had the thought, “Who’s to say they weren’t doing their best? Who was I to cast judgment? Maybe their frustrated and frazzled demeanor came from dealing with a cook in the kitchen who was late and making mistakes because they had a sick kid at home.” It’s true someone else’s best may not be suited perfectly for my need at the time, but that is true of my own behavior for others sometimes, also.
It is quite easy to respect someone when they return the respect. It is easy to treat people that we need something from with respect (because we are motivated to get what we want) or those who are in power who can help or harm us – so we are on our best behavior with them. Anyone can do that and most do. What is harder, and honestly of more moral fortitude, is respecting people who cannot do anything for us or are treating us badly. It is a great expression of good character to speak respectfully to the annoying telemarketer or grumpy clerk at the county motor vehicles office (or even a frustrated husband or hangry teenager) your boss, the governor, or your grandmother, your spouse, or kids. The propensity to behave this way exudes from the core of who we are.
The other side of this coin we must consider is this – if other people are precious and worthy of respect, then so are we. This then means, we should think and act towards ourselves as if we are worthy of respect – because we are. God sent His Son for US, too. If you were the only person on the planet, He would have done what He did with Jesus and the Cross just for you. We are also made in His image.
This aligns with the two Great Commandments – Love your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.
One of the reasons we struggle with this concept is sometimes because the culture sends the message that we are selfish to respect ourselves. The line between self-respect and selfishness is blurry and we can’t see clearly. However, the research shows we receive more respect, and our respect for others actually has more meaning, when we respect ourselves (Kumashiro, M., Finkel, E., Rusbult, C., 2002). More importantly, Christ gives the perfect example of respecting Himself multiple times in Scripture, which is of utmost importance to people of faith.
Perhaps we don’t know the importance of self-respect and how it impacts the way other people receive respect from us. Maybe we watched our family members give up their identity to prevent conflict, while one parent controlled and the other became resentful. Sometimes the church teaches that submission and respect = no voice. I’ve seen a few too many wives take my book, The Respect Dare (Nelson, 2012) and turn it into “How to be Taken Advantage of And Call it Obeying God.” Regardless, it is important to note we need both self-respect and respect for others. Some would like to say that we don’t have to respect everyone. God calls us to love everyone, including our enemies – that’s a thought to chew on, given that is an even higher calling.
The quotes below reinforce these thoughts:
Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.
I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.
Respect yourself and others will respect you.
If you want to be respected by others, the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.
When we treat people merely as they are, they will remain as they are. When we treat them as if they were what they should be, they will become what they should be.
Thomas S. Monson
My personal favorite is from Dr. Suess: A person’s a person, no matter how small.
What then, does it mean to respect myself and others? Respect is to behave as though we and others are worth caring about. It means I honor myself by getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night, exercising multiple times a week in a way that builds endurance and strength, eating foods that are healthy, staying hydrated, and using the gifts and wiring God’s given me because I am His creation, made in His image.
1 Corinthians 6:19 says I am a Temple of the Holy Spirit. It means I have boundaries and behave lovingly toward myself and others. I do what is good, not necessarily nice or convenient. I say, “no,” and mean it. I say, “yes,” and mean that, too. I’m NOT a doormat, but rather a respectful person who doesn’t need to yell like a two-year-old to get my point across. I don’t hang out while someone treats me poorly. I speak up – gently, but firmly. I step in when others are being mistreated – kindly, firmly. Respect is a mature concept; a high-road, one which requires the habitual practice of adulting to walk with sure footing.
I could be wrong here, but I haven’t seen many people consistently respect themselves while loving and respecting others without a deep relationship with God. We’ll talk more about how this works, but that’s my observation, and I hope you’ll consider this with an open mind. When our identity, our very sense of self, is wrapped up in our relationship with God, we care more about what the Creator of the Universe has to say about our behavior than anyone else. We will also care more about people the way He does. We will do hard things at a level that exceeds our own abilities. Words from other people won’t hold power over us, and we respond to challenging circumstances with strength and dignity, rather than fear. This gives us immense confidence and tenacity.
I respect other people as well and treat myself and others with expressions of evidence of God within me with what’s known as the “fruits of the Spirit” – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This book will give us lots of examples of how these things play out in the small moments of a day.
Respect is understanding and acting upon the innate preciousness of oneself and others, dramatically impacting relational outcomes.
So what about you? I’m wildly interested in your thoughts if you made it this far. Please comment below, ask questions, etc. Help me make the book awesome.
Love to you,
PS… Check out our Strength & Dignity eCourse for more tips on rethinking respect in your relationships!