Sunday, September 15, 2013


"Respect" is often hard to define. I think the best relational working definition I've read is something along the lines that identify respect as simply the ability to appreciate the separateness of the other person and the ways in which they are unique, even with differing presented views on an issue, with an inherent right to those views. I like that working definition.

The sad fact is the closest many in today's society get to even thinking about respect is when they use that word in a polite [they think] spoken formula, preceding an expression of disagreement or criticism. This is probably said with the hope that it will to some degree mitigate the effect of the words of criticism about to be spoken. "With all due respect, I think you've totally missed the point." illustrates that quite well.  [No one for a moment believes respect is foremost on the speaker's mind.]

It is important to remember that respect is more of an attitude than an action and certain actions or words spoken may only REVEAL whether respect is present or absent in the person doing the actions or saying the words.

For example, if someone uses disrespectful language such as verbal stereotyping, ["Your kind always____"] or verbal taunting, [You wouldn't/couldn't____ if your life depended on it."]  or verbal absolutes, [You ALWAYS/you NEVER_____]  or any other word that is accusing, shaming or humiliating, they probably have little knowledge of the relational devastation in process at that moment. And the tragedy is, a single act or word of disrespect can have consequences that not only are immediate, but have the potential of lasting a life time as well.

The reason for the destructive nature of a failure to respect is because disrespect is the opposite of trust. To respect someone is to built trust in the relationship, while the reverse is just as true. Disrespect tears down trust.

May I add, as my son recently said in a blog post, comedy or jokes at the expense of others fits into the category of disrespect.  A joke that is told with the punch line revolving around someone else's ethnicity, personal appearance, or physical deformity is a total lack of respect. or one told with the punch line revolving around someone else's misfortune or problems in life, Jokes with punchlines around someone else's perceived stupidity or foolishness fits into the disrespect category as well.

Preachers are notorious for using humor in this fashion to make a point. Did I mention that trust of preachers is at an all-time low in the present day?

Someone may be thinking, "Well, what does respect look and sound like?" Each to his/her own, but I think respect looks like good manners; being courteous and polite in actions and words, speaking to others in a kind [as opposed to harsh] voice, adding to that voice, polite body language especially when in the presence of on-lookers. And if I use humor I will always try to make myself the brunt of it with rare exceptions.

It could be as simple as when Scripture says this,

"Everything, therefore, be what it may, that you would have men do to you, do you also the same to them;"  [Weymouth New Testament]

Albert Einstein said it simply and well when he said, "Let every person be respected as an individual and no person be idolized."

Paul B.


Rex Ray said...


You’re right that respect and trust go hand-in-hand. Neither can be bought, but must be earned.

“SIR” is a respectful word, but I remember in a debate for president a person said:

“You sir, are no JFK!”

Good post.

Paul Burleson said...


I would agree that trust is something earned, but I'm thinking that respect is different.

I'm thinking that you and I would not disrespect a woman and push in front of her entering a cafeteria. Nor would we demand a waiter serve us before someone else even though we may have gotten there first. We respect people too much for actions like that whether we know them or not.

This may be because, as I stated in the post, respect is more an attitude than an action.

Trust would mean that a person places some level of confidence in another person. This requires knowing them at some level of experience. I might respect the woman going into a cafe by allowing her entrance first, but I wouldn't place my credit card at her disposal. That requires more than respect.

Just my thoughts on it.

Bob Cleveland said...

Good words, Paul. Some, tough, too.

I've met Russell Moore on several occasions. Had a nice conversation with him in Houston last June, too. He always calls me "Mr. Cleveland", and, while it certainly feels strange to have the President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission refer to me that way, I don't object. I don't tell him to call me by my first name, either, as he shows respect thereby that is a precious commodity today.

I call him "Dr. Moore", too.

There's just something so right about those little evidences of respect.

Folks can refer to me any way they deem proper. I don't mind my 30-something SS class members calling me by my first name. Not at all.

I had a lady insurance client named Mrs. Johnson, who owned a Day Care Center. She always called me MISTER Cleveland, and I called her MRS. Johnson, even though we were the same age. There was just something nice about that.

Respect costs us nothing, gives no one an advantage over anybody, but is, sadly, an increasingly rare commodity.

Paul Burleson said...


Excellent comment! Your last sentence is classic in nature and needs to have a wide audience. Thanks.

Aussie John said...


I like your thinking, ditto Bob.

Reminds me of "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.etc. " (Phil.2:3ff)

The intent,to win (a debate, argument, etc.)is that which portrays the character or the qualities the words or deeds as in a right or wrong spirit before God.

Garen Martens said...

Respect for each other as you've described it, would go a long way toward healing our nation and revival in our churches.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

I think you're absolutely spot on with this..."The intent to win (a debate, argument, etc.) is that which portrays the character or the qualities the words or deeds as in a right or wrong spirit before God."


I'm thinking that the same division we see in our nation is found, unfortunately, in many of our churches. Your comment correctly points out what is needed in both, healing and revival. Thanks.