Must Respect Be Earned?

respect-1I’ve heard it often recently:

He’ll have to earn my respect.

I refuse to respect someone who does that.

Just because someone’s in a certain position doesn’t mean I have to respect him or her.

I get it. It’s difficult to respect someone who is behaving badly, refuses to show respect to you or someone else, or seems to have severe character flaws.

But…

if we wait until people prove they deserve respect before we extend respect will we ever have respect for anyone? Who actually deserves respect (if we’re fully aware of everyone’s motives, thoughts, and attitudes)? On what standards do we base our respect? Don’t we all somewhat use our own standards? What’s important for one person to display is low on the priority list for someone else. One person sees assertiveness and outspokenness as important, while another sees patience and humility as essential. When we pit one quality or behavior against another, we fail to see the benefits something we personally don’t respect might have in specific situations. Instead of pitting qualities against each other, we might be better off seeing them on a sliding continuum. Then, the most important quality is the ability to discern where to be on that sliding continuum in different situations.

We don’t have to admire and fully support someone to extend respect to him or her as a human being. Respect isn’t unconditional acceptance. Respect is common decency. Respect isn’t supporting actions and attitudes that oppose our own beliefs. Respect is stepping outside a situation briefly enough to see that we all have flaws, and we can communicate in spite of them. Respect isn’t letting the bad stuff slide by unchecked. Respect is knowing how to approach people in productive conflict.

When Friends Betray

communication-73331Now it is not an enemy who insults me—otherwise I could bear it; it is not a foe who rises up against me—otherwise I could hide from him. But it is you, a man who is my peer, my companion and good friend! We used to have close fellowship; we walked with the crowd into the house of God. (Psalm 55:12-14)

The distance between people who have never been close rarely feels as far as cracks and chasms that grow between people once close to each other. The latter might be minute in comparison to the former, but it can feel overwhelming, isolating, and painful.

When distance grows, we feel betrayed. Not always, but it’s strongly possible we’ve had something to do with the betrayal (and distance). Even our reactions can influence the crack-soon-to-be-chasm. We can’t change what someone else does, but we can certainly choose how to respond to it.

When friends betray us, we don’t have to betray them. It might be wise to keep our distance, but we can choose respect, forgiveness, and compassion, even if it’s in our attitudes and conversations that have nothing to do with direct communication with them.

When friends betray us, we don’t have to betray them. It’s easier to build a bridge over a crack than a chasm.

The Cost of Peace

indexYou cannot buy peace just by saying “yes” to something.

Moms know a lot about this. We think it would just be easier to say yes even though we know we’re setting a precedent we really don’t want to deal with in the future, but that short term peace is so appealing. We give in.

It’s not just about the yeses we say to others. It’s also about the yeses we say to ourselves. But finding peace isn’t about the path of least resistance. It’s not about avoidance.

Finding peace often requires wrestling through conflict in order to reach a yes, a contentment with the decision. As we struggle to sort out what we should say yes to and what we should say no to, we grab hold of what’s most important and release the unnecessary. We pursue clarity of purpose.

So, pay attention to how you’re responding today, not just with your words but also with your attitudes, responses, thought trails, and more. Pause to wrestle with something as it rises to the surface, but refuse to wrestle with anything that spins your wheels and gets you more deeply stuck in a rut. Wrestle in order to grow. Take a step. Be bold. Persevere toward peace: God’s peace. Because His peace is worth the cost of the struggle.

Are You Rebellious?

rebelSurely you’ve rebelled a few times in your life. Even the times you weren’t caught count! It’s not just our outward actions that count as rebellion. Attitudes and thoughts can be equally as rebellious and lead to just as much—if not more—trouble. As we try to define rebellion, we can quickly get into trouble. We might narrow it to only mean those things that go against what others tell us we should or shouldn’t do. Can we really count those things as rebellion when we might not even agree with them? What about narrowing the definition even further to include only the things we believe we should or shouldn’t do? Well, haven’t your standards and reasons for behavior changed over time?

You can rationalize the rebellion of your teens years by stating your parents’ rules were ridiculous or declaring, “I was just a normal teenager.” You can rationalize what you did in the past even though you wouldn’t do it now because “I didn’t know better.” Couldn’t you perpetuate that cycle with the stuff you do now that doesn’t seem rebellious but might with the hindsight of a few more years?

We have to commit to a more solid definition of standards in order to accurately define rebellion. God’s truths and his guidelines don’t change. The concept of rebellion is quite simple: going against God’s guidelines is rebellion. That means you have rebelled. That means you will rebel in the future. But it also means you have to know God’s guidelines in order to follow them. God’s guidelines are the same whether you recognize them or not. God doesn’t change. You can make the excuse that you didn’t know, but what’s your excuse for not knowing? Is your excuse another case of rebellion?

Dig into God’s Word…

And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. Rescue me from my rebellion. Do not let fools mock me. (Psalm 39:7-8, NLT)

But as for me, I am filled with power—with the Spirit of the Lord. I am filled with justice and strength to boldly declare Israel’s sin and rebellion. Listen to me, you leaders of Israel! You hate justice and twist all that is right. (Micah 3:8-9, NLT)

So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. (Hebrews 3:7-12, NIV)

Live It Out Loud…

Pay attention to your social networking habits today. What is consistent and inconsistent with your faith? What is consistent and inconsistent with God’s will? Depending on the depth and breadth of your faith, you might assess these two categories in different ways, because you might not be familiar with God’s opinion in some areas. Jot a note each time you encounter an area that seems grey, when you’re not sure if you’re consistent or inconsistent with God’s ways. Hint: If you respond, “I don’t think God really cares about that area,” you need to add it to your list. God cares about every detail of your life.

Relationships Aren’t 50/50

healingthehurtI don’t know where the rumor started about relationships being 50/50, but it’s not true. I’ve studied many relationships in Scripture, and I don’t see a directive that indicates anything about 50/50. Give and take? Yes, of course. Meeting each other halfway with a perfectly balanced compromise? No.

I’m not recommending unhealthy relationships where one person always yields to the whims of the other. But I’m encouraging you to take an honest, realistic look at your relationships and your attitudes toward what you deserve, need, and want. Perhaps you keep a record of who has compromised to what degree across situations. If you gave up something big in one situation, you want the other person to give up something big next time. You operate on the favor system. Or perhaps you just default to yielding because it’s easier. You operate on the avoidance system. Or you want your way all the time—not because (you think) you’re selfish but because you just know better. You have the best solution, and why satisfy yourself with a less-than-great solution? You operate on the best-only system.

The value of “the best” isn’t determined by the outcome of the situation. It’s determined by the growth of the relationship. Involving others, even when it means settling for something a bit less than what you have in mind, is more important than the outcome. Respect is more important than success. In fact, respect is success. Perhaps the problem is that we personally define success instead of letting God define it. Perhaps the problem is that we personally define compromise in relationships instead of letting God define it.

Any single relationship isn’t 50/50. Both people in great relationships—marriages, friendships, and so on—will usually declare he/she got the best end of the deal. Both evaluate benefiting more than 50% of the time, but 50+ and 50+ combine for more than 100%. It’s more about the perception than the reality, because who can really define the benefits and costs of the relationship—except God? While God defines and directs our individual relationships, he keeps the big picture of our relationships as a whole. He knows what we need relationally, because he created us for relationships. He knows one relationship you have is going to feel a bit needy. You’re going to give way more than you will ever receive through it, but there will also be a relationship that you have the capacity to receive much more than you will ever give. Of course, sometimes we don’t completely trust through God’s guidance and provision. We’re more comfortable giving than receiving, so we don’t get the balance he intends. We then wonder why we’re exhausted. Perhaps you need to improve in asking for help and acknowledging your need for support and encouragement.

In addition to the balance across different relationships, sometimes individual relationships seem imbalanced but are balanced over time. We might have a friendship that seems primarily giving but what we don’t see is a time in the future when we’ll need to be still and accept the other person’s generosity through a time of need. We can’t demand paybacks, but we can trust that God is just and, in our obedience, he is faithful to provide the balance of relationships we need, including  both opportunities to sacrificially give and abundantly receive.

Consider your relationship with God. How 50/50 is it? God models relationship with us. He exists in relationship, and he created us for relationship. Our relationship with him is certainly not 50/50. (1) He created us. (2) He provides for us while we’re here on earth. (3) He sacrificed his Son to make a way for us to live with him in eternity. And what do we do? Seek him and respond in obedience—and we don’t even do that well much of the time! It doesn’t seem very balanced to me, but it must seem that way to God, because he designed it that way. Trust his guidance and provision. He knows what he’s doing.

LORD, I trust you. I have said, “You are my God.” (Psalm 31:14)

God’s family is certainly not exempt from hurt, including the hurts that come from within. People in churches are just as vulnerable to unjustly criticize, gossip, neglect, and offend one another as anyone else. It’s true that God sets us apart to reflect his image to the world, but to believe Christ-followers are perfect representations of Jesus will, to say the least, lead to disappointment. What (should) set Christ-followers apart from the world is how they deal with one another to heal the hurt. Will they do the hard work it takes to unite or will they further divide into quarreling, backbiting, judgmental factions? Which will you choose? Welcome to Healing the Hurt, a 10-post series to help hurting communities cope in biblical ways.