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R.E.S.P.E.C.T. find out what it means to me!

Many years ago, I attended a women’s book club where we read ‘For Women Only’ by Shaunti Feldhahn. The companion book, ‘For Men Only’ was written by her husband, Jeff Feldhahn.

These Christian authors had conducted rigorous research with thousands of men and women by asking a series of questions. The results were the foundations of these two, small, hardback books that can still be purchased today in bookstores and online. Most likely, this was my first exposure to a non-textbook, human psychology book pertaining to relationship therapy. I had studied human behavior in school, but this was a faith-based book and the weekly discussion made a lasting impression on me. If I wanted to, I could probably put my hands on at least one of these books as I have held on to them ever since. The idea that men and women react so differently when asked the same questions, well, it blew my mind.

Really, the only point I still remember, is the concept of LOVE vs RESPECT. This study revealed that men and women see and experience these words very differently. Now, the author would often clarify, most, but not all men and women agree. There are always exceptions.

In short, the research revealed MOST women would rather be LOVED than RESPECTED and MOST men would rather be RESPECTED than LOVED. For example, you can say to a woman, “I don’t really RESPECT you right now, but bottom line, I LOVE you”. Most women would be fine with that. Her security, the book explained, is the unconditional LOVE. Without that, she feels abandoned and vulnerable.

In turn, you can say to a man, “I don’t really LOVE you right now, but bottom line, I RESPECT you”. He will feel sad about that, but ultimately, he will sacrifice temporary LOVE for the overarching RESPECT that he so desperately requires. His identity is intricately connected to the idea of RESPECT and the emotional stability it represents.

As if it were yesterday, I can hear me friend and class moderator say… “I must be a man, because I identify with the men here… I need RESPECT.” She said, “you can say all day long, I LOVE YOU, and if I feel you don’t RESPECT me, I don’t hear a word you’re saying.” If she said that once, she said it a hundred times. The class would laugh and cut up about that, but she was dead serious. Those of us who knew her well, understood how passionately she felt about that.

A few years later, she would face a crisis where her relationships were tested. She had been wronged, and the whole world knew it. As her friend it was excruciating to watch. I hated it. I loved her but that was not good enough. She wanted her friends to hate who she hated. She divided everyone in her life into two distinct groups. There was a line in the sand and you either stood by her in contempt of her enemies or you were her enemy. My unwillingness to choose a side meant she chose it for me. I found myself in the wrong camp, the DISRESPECT CAMP. It did not matter that I disagreed with her interpretation. The lines had been drawn. There was no middle ground in the situation. Everyone had to fit into one of these two groups in her mind. Once she deemed anyone to be neutral, she cut them off.

As a result, I lost many, many friendships, including hers. At no time did I stop LOVING her. To this day, I honestly LOVE her! I am sure I always will. But to argue that, would be missing the point. She wanted, needed, demanded, and ultimately required RESPECT from everyone in her life. It was how she was wired. It was how she was raised. It was in her DNA. She could not help it really; she had told us years in advance what mattered to her the most. Walking away, I knew?

All these years later, I am re-living that scenario all over again. I find myself in a broken relationship with someone who has interpreted my neutrality as disrespect. Once again, I have been cut off and excommunicated from a friend circle and I am living this old nightmare all over again.

We are living in a Cancel Culture, so this scenario is being played out everywhere. As I write today, I am struggling to understand the mindset behind the person feeling so DISRESPECTED. If only I could speak to them directly, maybe I could convince them to stop, step back and see this from a different perspective.

That brings me to the BIBLE, the written WORD of GOD. What does the Bible say about it? Surprisingly, not a whole lot. RESPECT, DISRESPECT is not there. The concept is, but that is all! There are scriptures for “honor” and “obey”, but those words are very different. The argument can be made for the overarching meaning of RESPECT, but the only real scripture using that word says, “RESPECT all mankind”. I find no basis or justification for wars being declared and battles being waged over the lack or loss of respect. My father taught me that RESPECT is earned not demanded. “Honor your father and mother”, yes! “Honor the house of the Lord”. The honor train is long and well founded is scripture. But RESPECT? In my opinion, we have blown that way out of proportion.

While RESPECT for the right thing is healthy, we have made it a hill to die on. RESPECT sits proudly on a pedestal in so many families, businesses, churches, and friend circles. We keep RESPECT high on that pedestal and we run to check its stability with every word, look, or tone of voice. I fear, we, as a society, have elevated RESPECT to such an unhealthy level that it dictates every area of our lives.

Now, I can almost hear you say, “It is how I am wired. It was how I was raised. It is in my DNA. I cannot help it.”

About one week ago, I had just arrived back at my house after being out running errands. Still standing in my kitchen, putting groceries away, I hear a bloodcurdling scream from the front sidewalk. Now, I live right downtown, Nashville, so I hear people making noise all the time. But this was different. This was the scream like you would expect from a mother whose child had been ripped from her arms.

With both fridge doors still wide open, and ice cream on the countertop, I bolted as fast as I could out the front door. Kodak, my son’s, toy Australian Shephard, with me every step. Immediately, I saw three or four ladies running around, banging on my neighbors’ fence, screaming at the big dog who lives in that yard. “He’s got my dog; he’s got my dog!”

The recent rain that flooded our city, had washed away and ultimately compromised the security of my neighbor’s fence, leaving a hole at the ground large enough for the big dog to grab and pull the small dog under as they passed. I soon learned that these ladies had been walking this little dog down the sidewalk, only to have him snatched away, leash and all! It all happened so fast, and the little strap was no match for the beast who now had the little Pug in a death grip.

At first, I looked around on the ground for a good-sized rock to try to hit the big dog, as if to say “hey, stop hurting that dog, you’re going to kill him”. Quickly realizing A, I am not strong enough to throw a rock hard enough or far enough to reach him, and B, if he did let the little dog go, the little dog would still be trapped inside that fence. And C, if I did NOTHING, we were going to see the worst outcome in slow motion!

Now, as I sit at my desk, I can look out my window and see this big dog all day long. He is a solid white Huskey, his name is Hercules, he lays on his back deck or front yard most of the time and I rarely hear him bark. Why, what got into him? How could this be happening right now?

Being familiar with this dog a little bit, two other neighbors and I decided to go in. By now, there was a crowd starting to gather. The ladies were still screaming, and time was running out for us to save the little dog. So, the guy who lives on the other side of this fence grabbed a lawn chair, the lady from across the alley and I broke into the back gate and come on the property. Bare handed, no experience and no clue what to do…I started pulling on the tail of the Huskey. The guy with the chair was hitting the dog on his back to no avail. The third lady just kept trying to get Hercules to STOP through verbal commands. None of this was working. The little dog would not survive much longer.

After at least ten minutes of us trying to manhandle the beast, the neighbor with the chair said, I’ll pin the big dog to the fence if you can grab the little one. I tried to, but he was bloody, and my grip immediately slipped, and I fell face first in the mud, dirt, and rocks. I was sure the big dog would turn on me, now on the ground. The next thing I know, as I am pulling myself up on the fence, I turn to see what looked like six or eight new people coming in to help us. One guy had a baseball bat! It was loud and happened so fast. The bat must have done the trick. So much screaming, barking and more people with more chairs. The big dog dropped the little Pug, his mommy grabbed him up from the dirt and we all slid back through the partially opened back gate and into safety.

Feeling like my heart was beating out of my chest from the adrenaline, and totally out of breath, I made sure to get a good look at the little pug and his injuries. While I am no expert and I know he had lost a lot of blood, his eyes were bulging out of his head and his bottom jaw had been ripped off, I felt in my heart that he was going to live! They rushed him to the hospital. I’ll probably never see him again, but I think about that little dog every day.

Now, coming full circle, I recognize that we as humans are wired, coded, created by God to have certain behaviors. Just like that Huskey, it is in his nature to hunt and drag his food home. I do not know if Hercules stuck his snout out, or the Pug stuck his head in…all I know is, it was his duty to protect his property at all cost. It was in his DNA; he could not help it! Even though that dog has never showed that side to me in the two years I have lived next to him, that animal instinct was still in him and it kicked in and made for a terrifying twenty minutes. I do not harbor hard feeling or fear towards the dog or owner anymore. I do, however RESPECT his ability to overpower and defend his territory.

As humans, we carry genetics and have both learned behaviors and natural tendencies. In the south, we have a saying, “We do… as we were did unto”. Right or wrong, healthy, or unhealthy, we tend to follow our family traditions. Those behaviors may be warranted and result in RESPECT through domination, but at what cost? Are you hurting someone you say you LOVE… to protect others whom you also LOVE? How is that working for you? Is it worth it?

It takes intention to break patterns. A conscious decision to overrule subconscious thoughts. The good news is, we can! If it is in our nature to do or behave in a manner that is disruptive to ourselves or others, we can self-edit. In the heat of the moment, we might be like that dog who can not differentiate between STOP and FIGHT. In reading up on ways to stop a dog from fighting or attacking, they say to avoid yelling like we were doing. It causes the dog to experience even more adrenaline and they lose the ability to hear otherwise familiar words such as their name, or common commands such as stop. Like a fighting dog, too often, we also block out good advice from those around us who are trying to stop us from hurting ourselves and others. We could stop, but sometimes, we just do not.

Going back to the MEN vs WOMEN, LOVE vs RESPECT study, I see people using this as a filter that everything goes through. Every experience is an opportunity to be validated through RESPECT or denigrated from the lack of it. I see people bragging about these expectations and high standards of RESPECT that they require from anyone. I see this playing out all around me. Young people lashing out because they feel DISRESPECTED by their parents. Parents feeling DISRESPECTED by their children. Back and forth, on and on.

I believe it is an even stronger battle among some groups of society. Recently, I was having this discussion with an African American friend of mine. She said, this is taught at an early age to black boys especially, and she believes the roots are founded in slavery. That might be true, but I see this as a broader issue effecting the whole of society.

I am just one voice. Nobody might even be listening to me. I am a white female who can only speak to my experiences. I get it! However, I MUST try! I must speak out, speak up and let my voice be heard. Just as I felt no fear when jumping in front of that dog who was about to do something horrifying, knowing he might at any moment turn his attention towards me, I feel the same passion to stop my friends who are being just as savage.

PLEASE STOP! It is not serving you well and it is not biblical. If we could become a little more aware of this overreach and power struggle, maybe, just maybe, we could start mending bridges and re-connecting with the things that should matter the most.…relationships. I am sure we all want to go to heaven. And I am sure, there will not be fences and security guards. We will all be one…with no chips on our shoulders. If you can find in the Bible where Jesus wielded “that” sword around chopping off heads…then I’ll eat my shorts! I am telling you He did not do it. He had passion and turned over tables while running the cheats, thieves, and dirty rotten scoundrels out of the temple. But He did not have a chip on His shoulder about RESPECT. That is true in any version of the Bible you want to read.

I suggest, being accountable to somebody. Get a few good friends who will jump a fence to save you from YOU! Someone who will hold you accountable to stop your destructive behavior instead of kissing your ring. Someone who you will trust enough to listen when they are calling your name! Someone who will support you as you retrain your brain! You can do it!

If you feel DISRESPECTED…so what! Ask yourself if it is possible to LEARN from this and eventually EARN the RESPECT you crave? RESPECT, if earned brings honor. RESPECT, if demanded, brings dictatorship. Now, go spread some LOVE and sew some seeds of RESPECT!

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