Aretha Franklin made us keenly aware of the word ‘respect’. The catchy tune, the spelling it out, the big hair. Suddenly, young girls and women alike were singing the word that Merriam and Webster define as a feeling of admiring someone that is good or valuable, or understanding that someone is important.
Now, this word isn’t (or shouldn’t be) new to anyone and it’s elementary for most of us. Or, at least, we know how to spell the word. But I wasn’t too keenly aware of the reality of respect until very recently. In our new marriage class at church, we’re talking lots about the foundations of relationships. This foundation consists of many pieces that build a stellar marriage, but the first, and what they consider one of the most important, is respect. It’s important to give your spouse or significant other attention and intentional listening. It’s important to remain patient and calm when you’re angry or upset with them. It’s important to respect their interests, beliefs, and demands. For instance, Husband loves to be on time—which, in his reality, is ten to fifteen minutes early. I, on the other hand, don’t love being late by any means, but also figure that 90 seconds before is considered early. I’m being disrespectful by lingering in the bathroom those extra ten minutes while he’s tapping ever so lightly at the front door.
And I know I’m supposed to be working towards being a better spouse and friend, but what got to me even more was the idea of first respecting ourselves. What a concept. Imagine, admiring ourselves as someone who is good and valuable, or understanding that we ourselves are important. This one, not so elementary to me.
You know how a lot of people say, “ask God for something and He’ll give you the opportunity to practice,” or something like that? Well, sure enough, it happened just yesterday. After a few days of homework and reading, listening to the audio version, and soaking in ideas of respect, my (now former) boss came to me and asked me to do a favor. Except, she didn’t ask it as a favor to her. She actually twisted my own words, used them against me, and gave me a one-way ticket for a guilt trip…And then asked for the favor. (Even typing this, I feel my boiling blood turning into tears.) Of course, at the time my easily-guilted heart just heard the request of the favor and nodded my head. It wasn’t until I turned around and left and replayed the conversation in my head, that I realized I had just been swindled with my own words.
So now I’m wondering, if each of us were an outsider, watching ourselves treat us the way we do, would we stand for it? Would we simply sit and watch as someone was so cruel to another person? Probably the best thing I do for myself on a weekly basis is eat healthy food and get in some exercise. But am I doing that out of respect for this holy temple of mine, or am I doing it for the blasted scale in the bathroom, or for that wedding this summer?
My new book says that if we recognized each person, including our self, as a child of God, created to do good things, we’d treat everyone with the respect they deserve. If we saw every human body and every spirit as a temple, a dwelling place of the living God, perhaps we’d use respect, kindness, and gentleness with everyone. And, for the less religious, if we simply saw each and every person as a human, a kind or struggling soul, we would see each and every person with value and worth.
But it’s not enough. I know lots of compassionate people, including myself. And no matter what the hurt is, no matter what wrongs have been done before, and no matter if they are a complete stranger, compassionate people are willing to go to great lengths to help, show love, or make a difference. But without respect for ourselves, how do we expect others to show us a little respect?