Respect is something we usually understand best when its missing. When its missing, it is obvious because we feel, in our bones, disrespected. You know what I mean. Its usually a comment someone makes or maybe some action. Its not the exact words they say, it is how they say them. Its the attitude. Condescending. Sarcastic. Biting.
On TV disrespect is what makes for good entertainment. In real life, disrespect is what makes for volatile situations, bad morale, and sudden outbursts that can leave others wondering "Where did that come from?" In talking with a business owner the other day about the issue of respect, he said he can hire people to do a job and train them to do it well, but he can't teach them respect. That has to come from their parents. I agree, and not only do I agree, to some degree it concerns me.
For the most part, I know I was raised to be respectful. I say "Sir" and "Ma'am" appropriately to anyone regardless if they are older or younger than me. It was kind of beat into me as a kid. However, when I get that vibe that I've been disrespected, another side of me has been known to show. A side I am sad to say I am less than proud of. Usually afterward, I think to myself, "What if my kid had been here when that happened?" Chances are, I'd have kept them in mind and my own actions and words would have remained guarded. Such testing has happened on other occasions.
After my talk with the business owner about how it is the parent's responsibility to teach their kids, I imagined individuals in my life and how their upbringing might have contributed to the ways they treat others. For some, they overcame huge challenges to become something different than the way they were raised. Others, it seems, always want to use their upbringing as an excuse for their behavior. I started to wonder how I would feel if someone treated my children with disrespect, and to be honest, the feelings that welled up in me just imagining such an event were not pleasant. That is when another idea occurred to me. We teach our kids by our example, yet there is another reason to show respect to others. A bigger, much larger reason than "because you should."
My children are a product of my wife and I, and I know I could become very offended and defensive if I ever saw someone treating my child with disrespect. Now, take that a step further. There is a God in heaven who created us all. While we all have different backgrounds, different parents, and come from various social and economic areas of life, we are all creations of God. Ever wonder how God might feel when we disrespect one of His creations? To show disrespect towards someone, or to show disrespect for some effort they have made, whether we realize it or not, our actions and words in those moments directly offend and disrespect God, and are born out of a thankless heart towards a creation of Almighty God. OUCH!
People are people. Some of them will frustrate us, as we will frustrate others. However, even in frustration we can recognize the individual dignity of others, and show them some simple respect. Not because they may personally deserve it, but because they are a creation of God. As we would admire the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, or sit in wonder at the site of a full moon hanging in space above our earth, so we should understand that the same God that created those wonderful things created the wonder that is all mankind; each and every one of us.