Day 17: We’re Chosen To Fellowship Together – By Respecting Each Other

Point to Ponder: Respect begins with a godly perspective
Verse to Remember: “Excel in showing respect for each other.” — Romans 12:10b (GW)
Question to Consider: Which of the four ways of showing respect to others presents the greatest challenge to you?
[Read More] thoughts on Day 17 of Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Community.

Respect is hard.

It is particularly hard in Indian culture, where ‘respect’ is usually translated as ‘submission’, and ‘submission’ is translated as ‘absolute, unquestioning obedience’. Thus, respect is a heavy mandate towards those above you, but literally unthinkable towards those below you. Frankly, I don’t think I have much trouble showing respect — being tactful, understanding, gentle, and polite — with my peers, or when things go well. However, I’m realizing I have great difficulty maintaining respect when things go wrong, and any sort of authority is involved.

As I’ve often said, in Indian culture there are only two ways of dealing with authority:

a. absolute submission
b. outright rebellion
Despite long years of relatively healthy dialogue with my father, I still find it hard to break out of those categories. When things are going well, (a) is a viable alternative. But, when things go wrong, the choice is (or at least appears to be) between suffering in silence or shouting in agony. Ultimately, I don’t think either choice is really respectful. I know that keeping quiet can also be a form of disrespect, in that it doesn’t honor the other person’s willingness or ability to change, or rather be changed by God. Still, finding that ‘radical middle‘ of respectful disagreement and constructive engagement is not easy.

I’ve also begun to realize that I have more difficulty than I thought showing respect to ‘inferiors’ — both people subordinate to me, as well as those less capable than I am. I didn’t think I did, and even the term ‘inferiors’ bothers me, but that’s the most honest way I can put it. I think what I’m learning is that an attitude which is respectful at one level (e.g., peers), can be seen as insubordinate to superiors and authoritarian to inferiors. Or maybe that what I think of as respect is more cultural and less biblical that I thought, and so my flesh needs to die and my mind needs to be transformed to better align me with reality.

Or, maybe the key issue is simply one of tact: “knowing that the way you say something will influence how it is received.” Even if my intention is to be respectful, I need to expend more effort thinking (and praying) through how other people will respond to my actions before I act. Even if I think their reactions to me are partly driven by their own pride and disrespect (which is probably inevitable, given that we’re all fallen humans), that is besides the point: I need to take responsibility for manifesting the full character of Christ as completely as I can — and continuing to grow in the areas I can’t. I’ll never be perfect either, but I need to never stop striving after the image of Christ.

Prayer: God, I pray your Holy Spirit would teach and enable me to “excel in showing respect.” Not just having good intentions, but also right reasons, emotions, and actions. That people might feel respected by me, and that we all together would accomplish the manifold purposes you’ve called us to. Help me to respect others as myself, and to respect myself as you respect me. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.