So...I've been thinking about respect lately. What is it? And why is it important, especially in relationships?
In an incredibly cliche but effective move, let's see what our good friend Noah Webster has to say.
- Esteem for or the sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered a manifestation of a personal quality or ability.
- Deference to a right, privilege, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges.
- To hold in esteem or honor.
- To show regard or consideration for.
In my family, respect has always been a huge deal. I think one of the reasons my parents have such an exemplary marriage is because my dad respects my mom. I can't recall him ever saying a rude, derogatory, or condescending word to her in my life, even in jest. He treats her like a queen. Growing up, we all knew that the surest way to get Dad mad at us was to talk back to Mom or to disrespect her in any way.
A lot of the fights I used to get into with my dad centered around respect. I was never quite sure what my dad meant when, after I had brattily "just stated my opinion," he told me I was being disrespectful. Now I think I understand. Not only did I show disrespect for his position as a parent and authority figure, I disrespected him as a person. I treated him unkindly, and acted as if his opinion held no value for me. I failed to esteem his worth both as someone in authority and as a human being.
I think respect is one of the most important traits required for a healthy relationship. I don't want to spend my life with someone who talks down to me, treats me unkindly, ignores my wishes, or fails to view me as a valuable person. I think, in a relationship where mutual respect exists, each person will sincerely listen to the other's opinion, and then after listening, take it seriously. They will try to see their partner's point of view, and work to fulfill their wishes, rather than writing their opinions off as inexperience, ignorance or stupidity. Those in a healthy relationship will try to build each other up and focus on the positive, rather than using insults and derogatory language. Even in joking, put-downs can indicate a lack of respect between two people.
I know I still have a long way to go in respecting other people. I'm not the greatest listener (as any one who's been repeatedly interrupted by me can attest to). I'm extremely sarcastic and tend to communicate affection through putdowns. (You know I love you if I constantly call you fat or stupid). I know that I can't demand respect from those I associate with unless I give them that kind of respect as well. So that's my new goal. To treat people like the children of God they are. To recognize the value of each person I meet, to take their opinions seriously, and to treat them kindly instead of putting them down.
Because, you know...all they're askin' for...is a little respect.