My father-in-law recently passed away after a prolonged illness. I spent 10 days alongside my husband caring for my mother-in-law in her grief and helping to finalize my father-in-law’s affairs. In a folder, my husband found a list written in his father’s hand, entitled “People to call when I die”. This was so typical of him – planning and taking care of the details. To him this was respectful of others. In fact, “respectful” is one of the top three words I would use to describe him. It is a character trait I deeply valued in him.
One of the core values of the organization where I serve is Respect. Psalm 138:6 tells us that even though the Lord is high, he regards (or respects – Amplified Bible) the lowly. Respect is when we give due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others. The Lord is our role model in that, no matter how high we consider ourselves to be, we are to be respectful toward all, even, or maybe more especially, to those we consider to be lowly. It does not mean we never disagree with others; of course we do and may – even Jesus did – as long as our disagreement does not flow over into disrespect. At our organization we define disrespect as any action that diminishes or undermines someone else.
When we regard the feelings of others, it is a kindness we show toward them. Simple things like greeting someone – showing that you notice them and you acknowledge them. I know a woman who greets others with the kind of joy you display when seeing a long last friend after years of separation, yet she may have seen them the day before. The introvert in me admires that so much and I try and emulate that kindness within the parameters of my own personality.
In the United States, we have just come through the mid-term elections. We have witnessed disrespectful behavior on a daily basis for months on end. It has been painful to bear. Yet, in the midst of this, I have seen people take the high ground of respect. Not the kind of respect that says, “I admire you for what you stand for” but rather, the kind of respect that says, “I do not agree with what you stand for and I don’t really like the way you behave, but I will treat you respectfully. I will give due regard for your feelings.”
Oh, that I would always strive to take the high road and avoid giving in to the cheap, short-lived satisfaction of the low blows. The contemplative person in me sits and examines my actions over the past year. There are definite moments when I have failed. In humbling myself before the Lord with a contrite heart, I feel encouraged by the Spirit that, this year, the scales for me tipped toward the high road of respect. That is a win and I have seen the fruit of this in the beautiful and deep relationships I have enjoyed.
Respect is a form of kindness and kindness is an attribute of love and love never fails.
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:29-32