Hearts of Withheld Respect of Less Concern Than Hearts of Withheld Love?

There seems to be a strange dis­con­nect between our val­u­a­tion and per­cep­tion of Love and our val­u­a­tion and per­cep­tion of Respect. We’ve learned much about authen­tic love over the past cou­ple of decades. Cer­tain wis­dom (God-based) on the sub­ject has emerged and come to the fore in attempt counter cer­tain world-dom that seems per­va­sive. So, now, we echo state­ments like “Love is a Choice” and ideas express­ing that gen­uine love is unselfish and sac­ri­fi­cial, putting anoth­er first even though they may not seem, to some, to be wor­thy or deserv­ing. Anoth­er way of look­ing at the “wor­thy or deserv­ing state­ment” is to say that one holds expec­ta­tions, which, real­is­tic or oth­er­wise are or are not being met. Part of “Love is a Choice” is choos­ing to real­ize that one’s expec­ta­tions might be unrea­son­able, over­ly high, or, not to put too fine a point on it, unlov­ing.

Respect, how­ev­er, seems to be regard­ed very much dif­fer­ent­ly by these same peo­ple. Real­ly, when you get down to it, how can respect be any dif­fer­ent? Respect is a choice. Respect is less depen­dent on the per­son one is or is not respect­ing, and more depen­dent on the barom­e­ters and expec­ta­tions we impose upon oth­ers. How often has some­one said, “I can love this per­son but I could nev­er respect them.”? It sounds a lit­tle schiz­o­phrenic to me, and I’m cer­tain that I’ve said the same on more than one occa­sion. Cog­ni­tive dis­so­nant much? I need to take a good hard look at myself and see if I’m not talk­ing non­sense.

Myself, I would be dev­as­tat­ed to think of myself as an unlov­ing and uncom­pas­sion­ate per­son. I would lose sleep over it and be dis­traught if I, or worse, oth­ers, failed to see me as lov­ing and com­pas­sion­ate. In times past, I think I would have expe­ri­enced very lit­tle dis­com­fort were I accused of being pos­sess­ing a heart of dis­re­spect.

I would prob­a­bly feel and maybe express that I am com­plete­ly jus­ti­fied in depriv­ing anoth­er of my respect because of some fault I per­ceive that per­son to hold. Well insu­lat­ed by my jus­ti­fi­ca­tions, I would prob­a­bly nev­er even stop to con­sid­er if my heart of dis­re­spect might be sin­ful, dis­obe­di­ent, in need of repen­tance, and deserv­ing of effort to change just as much as would an unlov­ing heart.

I think that if I’m reluc­tant to self-exam­ine in this area, it is because I’m will­ing to make a show of sur­ren­der­ing on the very easy; the unlov­ing heart, pro­vid­ed I can use it as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to hold out on the very dif­fi­cult; the heart of judge­men­tal dis­re­spect.

Should not I; should not any­one, be just as anx­ious to come-clean and work to cor­rect one as we are the oth­er?

Know­ing I pos­sessed an unlov­ing heart would cause me to hurt, then reflect, then fret and pon­der [hope­ful­ly stop­ping short of use­less rumi­na­tion], to seek the help of a coun­selor, to sub­mit in account­abil­i­ty to those I trust to chal­lenge me and dis­ci­ple me to change. I would yearn to roadmap a solu­tion and then per­se­vere to com­ple­tion.

I think my cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance would maybe push me not to see a heart of dis­re­spect as any­thing like the same kind of bun­ny.

We can just choose to keep the cold heart and mind that can­not [or refus­es to] give to anoth­er a quan­ti­ty of respect one min­im greater than the oth­er has ‘earned’ or ‘mer­it­ed’. We can con­tin­ue to won­der per­plexed­ly why, despite our accu­mu­la­tion of gold foil stars for hav­ing lov­ing and com­pas­sion­ate hearts, the kind of lov­ing rela­tion­ships with oth­ers we yearn for con­tin­ue elude us.

I want to begin apply­ing the same ἀγάπη love stan­dard to my respect stan­dard.

Grace is unmer­it­ed favor. Noth­ing more, and cer­tain­ly, noth­ing less.

I want to be as grace-giv­ing with respect as I seek to be with love.

I want to be as heart­bro­ken by my pos­sess­ing a dis­re­spect­ing heart as I would be pos­sess­ing an unlov­ing heart.

I think back to my child­hood and I see now clear­ly, that a par­ent may cov­er up a twist­ed heart of self­ish abuse in their own minds by lav­ish­ing ‘love’ and pro­claim­ing to all who will lis­ten, what a lov­ing par­ent they are… all the while, shred­ding their child’s heart with con­stant unre­lent­ing meat-grinder scalpels of with­held respect or expressed con­tempt and dis­ap­point­ment.

My father may have been cor­rect every time he con­temp­tu­ous­ly expressed how I failed to meet even the base expec­ta­tions a child should meet, and how worth­less I was. [ He was entire­ly incor­rect. ] Even if he had been cor­rect, his goal was nev­er to make me a bet­ter boy, a bet­ter per­son, a bet­ter future man. That which I have accom­plished in those areas, I have had to do entire­ly on my own under the hos­tile rain of his dis­cour­age­ment. This I have done in spite of know­ing that I would nev­er earn his favor. He believed him­self jus­ti­fied in with­hold­ing respect. He is now beyond all capac­i­ty to give. Per­haps he always had been.

When I vis­it­ed my father in Bran­son dur­ing my fresh­man year in high school, he even told me that he had been try­ing to par­ent me using Dob­son­ian “Tough Love” and that if he had got­ten it wrong, it wasn’t for lack of try­ing. By his next words, he proved that lack of try­ing fig­ured strong­ly into things. Had he tru­ly read “Love Must be Tough” (The book in which Dr. Dob­son coined the term “Tough Love” before giv­ing it to the world as his last­ing lega­cy to mis­quote and mis­use), as he claimed to have done, he might have known that the book was writ­ten to help and encour­age the hus­bands and wives of spous­es who refuse to repent of and turn from sins such as ver­bal, phys­i­cal, emo­tion­al, and sex­u­al abuse, and infi­deli­ty.

Imag­ine name­drop­ping Dob­son as scape­goat for all the pain one inflicts on anoth­er. Paul might well respond, “μη γενοιτο”. My father was cer­tain­ly not alone in hav­ing made the attempt.

I think it is clear, going for­ward, that when we see these lit­tle ten­den­cies in our­selves to inflict upon oth­ers, that which was inflict­ed upon us, our heart’s cry should be a des­per­a­tion to do what­ev­er must be done to rem­e­dy. Once brought to our aware­ness, the absolute very last thing we may allow our­selves is excuse and self-per­mis­sion to con­tin­ue liv­ing life in this man­ner. We must counter our hearts of non-respect as strong­ly as we must hearts of unlove.

To acknowl­edge and then make excus­es or pass respon­si­bil­i­ty and not make des­per­ate effort to change is addi­tion­al retroac­tive abuse to the child we were, a vis­i­ta­tion of the abuse we suf­fered as chil­dren upon our adult selves, and of course, abuse of those God has put into our lives for us to, serv­ing as His proxy, show­er with His love and His respect.

The best response I could have ever made to my father was not to fight him, not to hate him, not to resent him, and cer­tain­ly not to try to show him that he was wrong and that he should repent. The best response is to instead to make cer­tain that I become the healed and impen­e­tra­ble wall through which his influ­ence is nev­er again per­mit­ted to vis­it hurt on anoth­er.

We are instru­ments capa­ble of serv­ing as proxy for anoth­er.

Do we allow our­selves to be used as the tools of those who have hurt us, or do we offer our­selves up to the Heav­en­ly Father who loved and sac­ri­ficed all to save us?

This sub­ject has been an ongo­ing pon­der for approach­ing a year. To this point, I’ve not had the courage to say what it was that gelled pon­der into a need to write this arti­cle.

Con­fes­sion. Con­tri­tion. ὁμολογέω/homologéō.

Recent­ly I have been in a sit­u­a­tion where peo­ple I very much love and very much respect (as Emmer­son Eggrichs would say, “Peo­ple of basic good will”) have done some things I regard as need­ing remedy/redress. I try not to put peo­ple on pedestals any­more, but it’s more of a strug­gle with folks I very much do love and respect who are in a posi­tion of author­i­ty. I think that the fact of their being just as human as the next guy engen­ders in me feel­ings of betray­al, which is unfair and ridicu­lous on my part. Rather, I hurt for a good­ly while refus­ing to remem­ber that they are fal­li­ble per­sons of good will with their own fears and hangups and foibles. In my hurt, I hurt back and feel jus­ti­fied doing it.

I am respon­si­ble for not just what I do with such knowl­edge, feel­ings, sit­u­a­tions, but how I do it.

Emmer­son exclaimed in a ver­bal con­flict with his wife Sarah, “You know you can be right, but you can be wrong at the top of your voice.. I’ve always had an inkling of what he meant, but I think I under­stand his mean­ing bet­ter now.

Some­times it’s much less about feel­ing respect than treat­ing anoth­er with respect.

A friend point­ed out to me while I was doing it that I was clear­ly dis­traught and maybe should find anoth­er time, venue, and method.

I felt jus­ti­fied based on the oth­er person’s action and my hurt, so I con­tin­ued unheed­ing.

It’s dif­fi­cult. My mind is still think­ing up ways I could have bet­ter used the oppor­tu­ni­ty to dev­as­tate resis­tance and dri­ve home what I per­ceived as real­i­ty.

Mean­while, my heart is break­ing, and all these thoughts on respect are crush­ing me down.

My heart is telling me that respect… true respect… would be to not speak from my hurt… would be to make effort and fig­ure out how to accom­plish what I feel is apoc­a­lyp­ti­cal­ly impor­tant, but in a way that did not give voice to a heart of dis­re­spect. These folks are cer­tain­ly worth it. I’m worth it. Christ is wor­thy of all and infi­nite­ly more.

I don’t know that I’m capa­ble. It seems an entire­ly impos­si­ble task. It seems that by the time I fig­ure out how to accom­plish it, it may be too late for real-world events.

Respect means try­ing in spite of all that. Respect means turn­ing to God to be strong where I am new­born blind-kit­ten weak.

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