In School, In Church, In Family: Expect Respect

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Jesus called this the greatest commandment, to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and... to love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:30-31). When we love others as we would love ourselves, we understand what true respect is. As Christians, this "greatest" commandment should form the basis of all of our relationships. So one might think that respectful relationships would be something Christians talk about often.

I'm not sure if this is your experience, but I grew up in the church, surrounded by Christians, but I didn't hear about the importance of respectful relationships there. I worked in Christian institutions for many years, but I didn't hear about the importance of respectful relationships there, either. I was first introduced to the concept of respectful relationships in my secular workplace. Once I started thinking about the need for intentionality when it comes to respect, and how it aligned with my Christian values, I finally understood the importance of treating others with respect and expecting respect from others. Since then, I've talked to many people about respect and the need for this topic to be talked about more openly in relationships. Realizing that we deserve respect, and have the right to expect respect in our relationships, can be life-changing.

So what is respect? In the online resource, Respectful Relationships, Kids Helpline defines respect as valuing people, including people who are like you and those who are different. The resource goes on to say, "Everyone has the right to feel safe, to be treated with fairness, to be valued and feel accepted for who they are."

So Why Are Respectful Relationships Important?

Respectful relationships:

  • contribute to growth, maturity and self-confidence
  • promote healthy self-expression and awareness of oneself and others
  • enable people to feel accepted, positive and free to be themselves

Kids Helpline points out that, when you are in a respectful relationship, you feel:

  • safe
  • encouraged
  • trusted
  • comfortable
  • that you matter
  • OK to be honest and open
  • listened to
  • equal and treated fairly
  • valued
  • understood
  • accepted

Sadly, sometimes despite our best efforts, the people around us do not treat us with respect. The resource, Respectful Relationships, advises, "When you observe others being disrespectful, it's good to keep in mind there can be many reasons why people don't treat others with consideration. Often, it is because they have not learned how to respect themselves or have not previously been treated with respect."

However, a person's past trials are no reason to let a person continue to hurt, abuse or harass you. Disrespect is not acceptable. Not at work, not at school, not at church--and not at home. If you cannot remove yourself from someone that is hurting or disrespecting you, it is important to get help or to talk to someone you trust. By doing these things, you are showing respect for yourself. With professional guidance, you will be able to make good decisions about your relationship and your safety and well being.

What do you think about respect?

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This is very helpful. I think we need to be having more conversations about treating others with respect in our homes and congregations. It is such an important practice that can have a huge impact on the Church!