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.

If I Were You…

301742_328847527189296_126894987384552_755324_885186947_nHowever, if I were you, I would appeal to God and would present my case to Him. (Job 5:8)

How many times do we say, “If I were you…”? The truth is: we are not. Other translations say, “As for me…” Perhaps that’s more truthful, admitting we’re really just giving the advice we most want to follow. But we’re not actually in the other person’s shoes. We don’t bring with us the same experiences, lessons, priorities, and so on.

Yet we can still give sound advice: “appeal to God.”

How can we go wrong? How can we advise wrong?

Telling people how we’d respond is selfish, but pointing them to God is not. One is self-centered; the other is God-centered. We can still support, listen, reflect, ask, and more. We don’t send people on their own way and never follow up. We continue to invest in people’s lives. But we let God do the most investing.

Because we’re not Him.

Permission Is Not Equal to Support

Pharaoh told God’s people to go, to get out of Egypt, to go and worship their God in the wilderness; yet he wasn’t excited about it. He didn’t support them as a people or follow their God, despite having experienced His power first hand through powerful plagues.

In 1 Corinthians 10:23, Paul wrote, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is helpful. Everything is permissible, but not everything builds up.”

How many times does God allow us to have our way even though it’s not the best way? He gives us permission to choose with our free will, but He certainly isn’t excited or supportive of all of our choices.

There are a lot of things we “get” to do in our lives. There are laws that give us rights that we cling to and claim. We justify what we do because we have the law on our side or a clinical study or a chosen expert’s opinion or, if nothing else, we can Google it and find someone who claims the same thing we want to claim. But majority doesn’t rule and opinion doesn’t reign.

We will always be able to find someone who says “okay” to everything we do.

That doesn’t make everything we do okay.

We need to want permission and support from the right sources. We need to stop asking the “right” sources, knowing we’ll get affirmation. Constant affirmation doesn’t challenge us to grow. It doesn’t hold us accountable.

Truth does.

How difficult is it to ask God what He permits and what He doesn’t, what He supports and what He doesn’t? How many assumptions have you made about those things? Has it become more about behaviors on a to-do and don’t list instead of knowing God’s character and heart enough to know how to approach such things?

Pleasing God, getting His support, isn’t about legalism. If you want some examples, look up everything Jesus said to and about the Pharisees. God’s support isn’t about what we do; it’s about the process by which we do it. It’s the relationship we have with Him as we wrestle through decisions. It’s what we do when we realize we’re off the track. It’s setting aside our own will for His.

Ask Him what’s permissible; then be sure to ask Him what is helpful, what builds up, and what He supports, too.

You Don’t Have to Share

cellphone-messageNone of us share everything on social media. We can’t type quickly enough to keep up with all the thoughts we have. But many of us share too much.

I’m not just talking about the actual things we shouldn’t share. I’m not talking about the filter we need to use that many don’t. There are some things I’d rather not see on my social media feeds, but I have to admit that while I can’t control what others post, I can control how much time I spend on social media, what posts I allow, and so on. And sometimes, while I might not be interested in a post, I know someone else likely is. It’s not simply about interest, offense, or impact. It’s about motivation.

I’m talking about the actual sharing process.

Perhaps instead of choosing who we follow based on content, we should choose based on motivation. Of course, that’s easier said than done. But we can start by keeping our own motivation in check.

  • Are you posting to brag? Maybe you don’t want to admit it, but when you have that “I look good! I need to share this moment!” or “What a great family photo!” (even if everyone was arguing just 30 seconds before the camera clicked) or “I just bought the cutest shoes!” when…really? Shoes are post-worthy with all the other needs and issues of the world? Buy a good pair of walking shoes and give them to someone who lives on the streets. Post a photo of that person’s feet in the shoes (if he or she allows it) and challenge your social media friends to do the same. Our world needs a lot less bragging and comparison.
  • Are you posting to get pity or support? Support isn’t a bad thing, but we don’t need to get it through “poor me” posts or “I can’t believe he would ever…” posts. If your goal is to tally the likes and favorites your posts get to prove yourself affirmed, admit that just about anything will be affirmed on social media, given the right audience and context. If there was a dislike button, some of that affirmation would be stolen away. Refuse to leave your affirmation up to the not-so-random sampling of people in your circles. Instead, go face to face to the people you most respect and will speak truth to you.
  • Are you posting out of boredom? There are better ways to spend your time. Read a book. Go for a walk. Meet with a friend. Breathe fresh air. Look around. Help someone.
  • Are you posting to help others? Now, here’s where it gets even more sticky, because what we think is helpful isn’t necessarily helpful. First, we’re all in different places with different issues and needs. Second, soundbites aren’t always as helpful as we want to believe they are. I struggle with this one in particular, because I post what I hope will encourage and challenge others. It’s not just about warm fuzzies. I can’t please everyone. I just pray that any offense someone takes spurs they toward a journey of mercy and understanding.

I’m not questioning your motives as much as I’m keeping my own in check. But hopefully, you’ll take a breath and hold your fingers over the keyboard for just a second longer next time. Check your motives before you post.

Sticky Mud

I’d walked the path before without any problems, but this time was different. It had rained the night before, and Israel soil isn’t used to much rain. As a group of us walked to the Olive Sculpture near our hotel, the mud clung to our shoes. The farther we walked, the heavier our shoes became.

I led the way and tried to find the best path to avoid most of the mud, but it didn’t seem to matter where I walked. Mud caked the bottom of my shoes. A couple people talked about going back, but I kept thinking, “If we just get a little farther, the path will get better. We’ll cleaned off our shoes and find another way back.” But each step attracted more mud, like a magnet that attracted heavier and heavier metal objects. We talked about other things and laughed, but the mud wasn’t far from our minds as it covered our soles.

Then, we reached a path.

11.4.14 path from Olive Sculpture at Ramat Rachel
©2014 PurePurpose.org

 

11.4.14 Olive Sculpture at Ramat Rachel (8)
©2014 PurePurpose.org

We scraped and stomped our shoes, and mud flung in every direction. Much of it stayed on our shoes, clinging as if it had been mixed with cement or bubble gum. At least now we were on a more solid path, so we forged forward to see the view that kept us going.

Our shoes weren’t clean, and it was tough to get to the sculpture, but we made it. Doesn’t it often happen that way? We struggle and want to go back, because we’re focused on the inconvenience and mess. If we persevere, we think we’ll reach a beautiful place and leave all the mess behind, but the mess sticks with us…perhaps as a reminder of the struggles we’ve endured.

Maybe we should be thankful for the mud. It slows us down enough to make us count the costs of going where we’re going. Our journey sticks with us. We see the beauty of life because of it, not in spite of it. We don’t just tolerate the journey, we find purpose in it. We stomp off the unnecessary stuff but let some of it work itself off as we continue.

We let God take care of the details as we follow each step He leads us to take.

Keep walking.

“Not Much” Is More Than Enough

We received a list of items need by Bridges for Peace, where we served in Israel.

  • New baby clothes
  • Children’s toys
  • Toothbrushes
  • Backpacks for kids for school
  • School kits (pencils, erasers, crayons, glue stick, scissors, pencil sharpener, etc.)

We gathered as much as we could pack, and we lugged around our extra suitcases for the first several days until we began serving. We combined our bags and packed them on the bus. We rolled them into the building where they would sort, store, and distribute the items, and we started unpacking.

11.4.14 Bridges for Peace (5)
©2014 PurePurpose.org

 

Little by little, those working and serving at Bridges for Peace that day came to see what all the commotion was about. They found an explosion of suitcases as we filled bins.

And they had tears in their eyes.

We started with a list, but what we didn’t know was donations were down because of the change in airline baggage fees.

We didn’t know they had been out of baby clothes for three months.

We didn’t know the baby clothes we had brought were enough for six months.

We didn’t know they had been praying for provision and witnessed God’s answer.

They cried for joy, hugged and thanked us.

11.4.14 Bridges for Peace (23)
©2014 PurePurpose.org

 

11.4.14 Bridges for Peace (24)
©2014 PurePurpose.org

 

We cried, too…partly for joy, and partly because we wish we had known. We wish we had done more.

It was pretty easy to gather items, pack them, and roll them on and off our planes and buses. What we thought was “not much” was an abundance for those in need.

Yes, we could do more, but what we did was…something.

Look around. You are surrounded by needs in your home, church, community, and world. You can’t solve every problem or meet every need, but you can do something. Don’t let “not much” stop you. It might just be more than enough.