Is Respect Earned or Given?

Perhaps I’m just a curmudgeonly old guy now, but it seems to me that people are just not as respectful as they used to be. Much of our culture believes that you do not have any obligation to respect someone unless or until they respect you first. It is a twisted vision of biblical respect. First Peter 2:17 says, “Show proper respect to everyone.” It doesn’t say show proper respect if and only if they respect you in the way you think you deserve to be respected. It says to respect everyone because everyone was created in the image of God.

Maybe I’m the only one outraged and deeply disturbed by this downward shift in our cultural value system. But it does seem that young people are less respectful than my generation was. They seem to have a perverted concept of what constitutes respect. Many young men today believe they should be respected before they will offer respect. The fallacy in this philosophy is that true respect is earned, not bestowed. When I was young, I would not have even considered being disrespectful to an adult, especially one in a position of authority. Additionally, if I had gotten in trouble in school, I would have suffered not only disciplinary actions from the school, but I would have been punished twice as bad when I got home. I can tell you from talking to and working with teachers, coaches, police officers, and parents that our children are for the most part very disrespectful toward any kind of authority.

This disrespect for authority (parents, teachers, police, etc.) creates a lack of integrity because they have no accountability in their lives. Young men without accountability have no need to be dependable, honest, or trustworthy in their words or actions. Why should they? No one else seems to care.

Teaching boys proper manners is a good start to teaching them to respect themselves and others.  Manners and politeness are really just showing respect for other people, even those you do not know.   Teach your son the dictionary definition of respect, than look for opportunities help him be respectful in a variety of settings.  Most of all, remember that a son best learns respect by observing his father show respect.  And a son whose father respects him is more likely to want to respect his father.  Boys who’s mothers respect them learn to respect all women.

Question:  In what ways are you being intentional about being respectful to your son?

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  • Justin Darty

    I really enjoyed reading this post and I agree with your frustration. I was always raised to show respect to others not because I had good male role models, but my mother was a professional and she taught me. I almost feel like one of those guys that always says, “My mama said…” I’m not sure where my parent’s generation went wrong with raising their children to be respectful, but my generation is a new breed of strong personalities with bad morals. I am obviously part of the disrespectful generation that you speak of. I am a 24-year-old male with a wife and two-year-old son.

    Choosing friends from a world full of people with similar values is extremely difficult which is why it is so important to get involved in the church. The church body should have people with similar morals considering we all live for God. We are much like those that we surround ourselves with. It is important that we surround ourselves with people that are respectful.

    Growing up my mother always had a difficult time with letting me go places with friends mainly because the quality of individuals that I was surrounded by was sub par. I really feel like I had a good head on my shoulders and I always saw how awful my generation treated their parents and other figures of authority. I am very lucky to have not gotten caught up in their mess. Fortunately, I was able to get away from the crowd when I enlisted in the Marine Corps. I had blended in very well to begin with. All of the new Marines were very respectful mainly because we were all too nervous to get in to any kind of trouble. After getting more comfortable I saw my peers lose some of their respect for their leadership. This is where we were set apart. Unfortunately for them, their enlistment was not as smooth as mine.

    I now have an almost three year-old son which puts me in a new category, a parent. My wife and I like to get him involved with playing with other kids because interaction is very important while they develop mentally. Every single parent that I work with that I consider to be friends have an unbiblical way of raising their children. If there is no tag on an item then it is okay to steal it. Foul language is used regardless of who is around. Worst of all, while at family functions for work they encourage their children to be aggressive with the others so that they will always get what they want. There is no gentleman or lady lifestyle anymore. There are too many untamed people terrorizing others, which is extremely influential to a young crowd.

    Now there is a solution to this and you nailed it when you said, “Most of all, remember that a son best learns respect by observing his father show respect.” It is natural for us men to see a problem and immediately try and come up with a solution. We want to fix the problem now. Dave Ramsey calls us a “microwave society” because we have to have everything right now. The most difficult part of fixing this problem is knowing that it is not going to be a quick fix. It will be training our children so that they will positively influence those around them. We need to be working for the future of our children rather than trying to make a change for right now. We can use the bible as a guide because it will never steer us in a wrong direction.


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