Here are a few definitions of the word “respect” from various dictionary resources:
“esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability.”
“the condition of being esteemed or honored.”
“a formal expression or gesture of greeting, esteem, or friendship”
“to show regard or consideration for.”
The Cambridge Dictionary:
“the polite attitude shown toward someone or something that you consider important.”
The Oxford Dictionary:
“Due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others.”
Life for me over the course of the last few years has been a grueling lesson in self-respect.
I am a kind person. Known for giving family and friends second, third, and seventh chances. I think in many ways this is good and right. Forgiveness is necessary. It is necessary to purify the poisoning that un-forgiveness brings into our own soul. It is necessary for offering relief, mercy, and grace to the offender. And necessary in the greater recognizing of our own desperate need for forgiveness from a loving Savior and from people whom we have hurt.
I was also raised by an unassuming woman who would have rather melted into the walls behind her, than take anything for herself. Whether that anything came in the form of praise, rights, monetary gain, or respect for her opinions. Yes, more than once I saw her sacrifice her own self-worth in public only to cry lonely within the privacy of her four walls. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18. Selah. Bless you Mama.
And though I am her daughter, I am coming to learn a different way. I am learning that there is a fine line between losing one’s self for others, and giving them your self- respect. Because in the end giving your self-respect to others is doing them an injustice because it isn’t Truth. And anything that is born out of a lie will not manifest into anything good in their lives. When you give others your self-respect, you are also doing yourself an injustice for the exact same reason.
How do I know that as soon as you give your self-respect away you begin living a lie? Because The Bible tells me that you are VALUABLE. You can see this concept fleshed out here in my blog, The Value of A Person.
But there is another way that we can know that to give away our self-respect is to live a lie. And this is in a much more practical sense, if you will. When we live a self-depreciating life style we are equipping the people in our lives to a) not know who we really are, and b) not respect who we are. People will eventually view us in the exact manner that we have taught them to view us.
I came to recognize this as a grave error in my own life in my late forties. So when I achieved that grandiose milestone of 50 years, I made a promise to myself. “Never again”, I said. From this day forward, I live who I am. Not who you want me to be- because that makes you happy and comfortable. Not who you want me to be. And not who you want me to be. Me. The ‘Me’ God created me to be. It was good enough for Him. It’s always been good enough for me. The only one it maybe hasn’t been good enough for is you.
But life is funny. Here is the thing I have learned. As soon as the Truth takes hold in us and permeates our being, the appollyon- the father of lies- the roaring lion- abaddon himself- will show up. And true to his namesake, will stop at nothing to remove the Truth from our lives and render us devalued once again.
For the past few years now, satan has manifested himself in this stratagem in various ways, and as a result:
• I have had to stop initiating contact with a close family relation because s/he proved time and time again that s/he did not value relationship with me as a high priority. I wasn’t a medium priority, and as it turned out I wasn’t even a bottom of the rung priority. There comes a point when we must accept Truth. Live in it. Don’t rescue friends or family from the consequences of the behaviors they exhibit. Live in the truth of where your relationship is at. Allow them to do the same. This is their expression of your perceived value in their lives. Respect: “the condition of being esteemed or honored.”
• I have had to acknowledge the bullying mentality of another close relative, and remove them from good standing, and re-erect old boundaries toward them in my life. This person also exhibited lack of respect and support for me as an individual and my choices. Respect: “to show regard or consideration for.”
• I had to acknowledge that a friend’s loyalty and desire for deeper friendship was lip service only when I tested my suspicions and stopped being the one to initiate every phone call and plan our every outing by not calling him/her, and naturally he/she has never called since, and I do not expect to ever hear from him/her ever again. Respect: “a formal expression or gesture of greeting, esteem, or friendship”
• I had to accept the fact and cut lose another friend who told me that I was a very important person in their life and that this person had connection with me that he/she did not have with other people, but dropped me like a hot potato whenever any of those other people were around. Respect: “the polite attitude shown toward someone or something that you consider important.”
• I always feel profoundly disrespected when dealing with ‘church’ people, since , when asked, I’ve always tried to patiently explain to them how my church service and worship to God may look quite a bit different from their church service and worship. And that I find the way I do it is, for me, more effective for my growth in His service. I always give them plenty of respect and space to worship God in any way they like and in their preferred gatherings. But when I do not show up to their particular form of worship, I am branded as backslidden or rebellious.” Respect: “Due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others.”
• I love my husband. But he is a charmer. Sure, he charms me. But evidently he charms everyone else around him as well. Especially the women. I’ve been in a few relationships in my life, but can’t say that I have been in any before where I am pretty much invisible. I can sit down to visit with any number of our female acquaintances, and basically be ignored for up to two hours while they direct all of their eye contact, all of their questions, all of their laughter, and all of their dialogue at my husband. It cracks me up when they remember that I am there. You can see it in their eyes, “Oh, I should say something to her. But I have no idea what to say to her because I don’t understand her.” Then, bam, just as quickly as the thought of me got in the way, they are back to enjoying the light in his eyes. Ah, such is life. Disrespect. The world is rife with it these days. The course of action would be to say, “Would you like to visit with my husband alone? And why, exactly, do you introduce me along with him, as your friend?” But, really, what’s the use? At this point I have as little respect for you as you do for me. Even my husband says it is starting to get tiresome. Because, he says, when someone disrespects his wife, they disrespect him. Respect: “the condition of being esteemed or honored.”
So, it’s been a tough few years to say the least. Mainly because satan has attacked me through the people who once were the closest to me. But perhaps they weren’t as close as I thought after all. And if my standing up for myself and asserting some self-respect has cost me relationships, then maybe it is time to get new relationships. Perhaps it is not by coincidence that I find myself in a different country. And I do, actually, take ownership for some of it. For I have taught people how they may treat me. What they can, and cannot get away with. I thought I was being kind. But I wasn’t being kind, for I was only bringing a half Truth.
Still, I am not always good at assertiveness. In fact, it is my least favorite thing to do, truth be known. But it is becoming a little more a part of me every day as I realize the folly of other routes. These days the people who meet me learn pretty quickly who I am. Take it or leave it. I don’t run with crowds I have to impress anymore. I don’t run with people who aren’t impressed with me, or who haven’t got time for a little give and take.
Does this narrow my sphere of friends? Sure it does. But I would rather have one genuine friend than 10 friends who don’t respect who I am. With friends like that, who needs enemies?
Still, I love those who have gone before. I pray breakthroughs in our relationships. I pray genuineness. I pray forgiveness, and God’s love to all. And to those who have gone before, I’m sorry for the confusion. Who I was twenty years ago, I am not today. Hopefully we are all constantly changing and growing.
With much love and respect.
*Note to self:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~ Marianne Williamson