Unconditional Respect = Participation Trophies?

Unconditional Respect = Participation Trophies? January 9, 2013

by Love. Learning. Liberty.

Growing up I always had a special attraction to World War II stories.  I was taught to lionize Corrie Ten Boom and others who stood up against the Nazis, risking their lives to protect others.  I fell in love with Dietrich Boenhoffer.  I read Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I read about Jane Addams, Mary Bethune, Mother Jones and Amy Carmicheal.  These men and women were heroes because they took a personal stand against injustice.  I knew that all good people should aspire to be like them.

All good people would of course include all good Christians.  I did not study the long history of injustice and abuse sometimes instigated by the church (pogroms) and other times promoted by the church (Nazi propaganda) and in some cases merely given tacit approval by the church (Ku Klux Klan).  If I had, if Christians would study the dark side of their own history, maybe we wouldn’t be so prone to repeat it.  But regardless, I grew up respecting these people because of their character and their accomplishments.

The church was supposed to lead a love revolution on the planet. This was Jesus’ command, to love one another.  This was Jesus’ example, to go about doing good.  This true Christianity still survives, but not in the Christian publishing empire.  Nope, the visible church is once again at time instigating abuse, promoting abuse and giving tacit approval to abuse. And this time, it’s my beloved country. This time, it’s my beloved fellow citizens foaming with self-righteous hatred at any suggestion of living a life of love as a society.

Pay a penny tax to help the children of the poor?  Suggestions like that provoke overt anger in “good Christian” men.  Restrict access to high-kill firearms so that society suffers less gun violence?  “Good Christian” men become livid at the suggestion that they modify their behavior in any way, for any purpose.  They demand their rights be respected!!

But other people’s rights?  Let them fight for themselves.  Well-off white Christian men worked hard for what they have, and it’s theirs!  It is not possible anymore to get them to consider that other Americans work just as hard, if not harder, for far less because they were born without the advantages of middle-class white people. They won’t even admit these advantages exist.  And if they do admit to any advantage, they have no gratitude or sense of humility about having it, they will just claim it is because of their parents’ hard work.  As if the children born into poverty all have lazy parents- which is what they truly believe.  They do not even try to understand what life is like for those on the bottom tier of economic system.  They don’t believe it is right or good to do so.

That is where we are today. Good is called evil, and evil good, and by the very people (Christians- followers of Jesus Christ!) who should be leading the charge to minister to “the least of these”.

Today’s evangelical church has a new cause- patriarchy, not brotherly love.  Today’s evangelical church has a new enemy- gay people, not personal failure to live a life of love.  Today’s evangelical even has a new “least of these” to be concerned about, and it’s not the poor, the crippled, the widowed, the hungry or those in prison with whom Jesus chose to be concerned.  (Oh  no, especially not those in prison!)  The church is concerned about male privilege- the loss of which they liken to being castrated. This is the emergency the church must respond to NOW- not feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless or visiting the socially isolated.  The big need today is for wives to offer unconditional respect to their husbands.

Unconditional respect?!  When I was a child that would have been loudly denounced. That’s what Stalin demanded of the people of the USSR.  That’s what Hitler demanded first of Germany and then the world.  American earn respect, they don’t demand it.  Unearned respect is an oxymoron anyway.

Respect carries with it the idea of admiration, a belief in the superior nature of the one being respected for a real reason.  We respect Teddy Roosevelt for taking on trusts. We respect Mother Theresa for her dedication to the poor. Some respect athletes for the dedication that made them world class players, or even for the natural talent they possess.  But in all cases, respect is there because admiration was there first.

Recently the right wing has rightfully attacked “new age” pedagogy, which gives out trophies to all children for participation, rather than rewarding only the best results.  Conservatives scoffed at the notion that a child’s self-esteem was at stake.  Life is competitive, and only the ones at the top get rewarded.  I tend to agree with this, that self-esteem will always be based on real accomplishment. Accomplishment should be recognized and rewarded, in an effort to encourage children to strive for true achievement.  Merely showing up should not earn awards.  The “self-respect” such awards create is short-lived and unsatisfying, and makes children expect big rewards for little effort.  Critics claim that the unearned awards would make lazy, demanding whiners out of our nation’s children.

And yet these same conservatives want grown women to give unconditional respect to men!! They even claim that the men’s self esteem is suffering because they do not get the moral equivalent of participation trophies each day from their beaming wives.  Women are urged to give “unconditional respect” to their husbands or their poor man will suffer from being emasculated.  Men “desperately need” this unconditional respect, according to popular author Eggerichs, in his big money-making enterprise (books, DVDs, seminars, $$$$$) Love and Respect.

Christian men are “desperate” for their participation trophies?  But won’t all that unearned “respect” ultimately back-fire?  When reality breaks in and the marriages fail and the broken, wounded people emerge from families led by immature, lazy, demanding whiners won’t that be a bad thing?  Because it is. It no more builds strong families to offer husbands “unconditional respect” than it builds winning sports franchises to give all players equal time in a starting position.  Human nature doesn’t work that way.

This Eggerichs guy is getting rich, filthy freaking rich, by telling Christian women to use the same “new age” pedagogy that conservative rightly criticized and applying it toward their relationship with the grown men they married.  I am sure it is generously proof-texted, but that doesn’t make it true.  If only Christian women would seek God on their knees, and then use the good brain God gave them to seek our truth, this book would not be a best-seller.  The world will be a much better place when the self-made Christian golden ghetto disappears, and all the hucksters and snake oil salesman disappear with them.

I am happy to report that my husband earns my respect by his character and achievement. When his character  or actions are not worthy of respect, he figures it out pretty quickly and takes appropriate action. THAT is why our marriage is making it where many others have failed.  The damage of misogynist fundamentalist religion in our marriage was addressed (is still being addressed) by both of the adults in this relationship.  We each, regardless of our gender, have taken (are still taking) responsibility for our beliefs and the actions that spring from them. As God spoke to Cain in the garden, “If you do good, shall you not be rewarded?”

Trophies go to those who earn them.  Respect is awarded to those who earn it.  Unearned respect, like unearned trophies, may feel good at first but the concept is just setting men up for failure.  Ultimately the world does not continue to stroke the egos of lazy, demanding whiners.  It just is not going to make better men or better marriages, and by extension better families.  Christian homes will be a toxic mess of entitled husband/fathers, harried wives/mothers  and wounded children who will see right through it as they grow up under the madness of such a contrived emotional system of padre pandering.

PS The unconditional love that “women long for”?  All of humanity longs for it. And that, we are COMMANDED  to offer freely to one another, married  or not, regardless of gender, or age, or any other descriptive term.

John 13:34

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Comments open below

Love. Learning. Liberty’s blog

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • This is great! I wish we had two different words for the two different kinds of respect that there are, though. I think there is a basic kind of “respect” that we owe all human beings. This is akin to “courtesy” and simply means everyone deserves to have and keep boundaries.
    The other kind of “respect” is what you’re talking about here, Shadowspring– acknowledgment of position, accomplishments, etc. No one should just be handed this because of the accident of birth. To award this based on birth is called “divine right.” Divine right of kings is what America’s founding fathers fought against. Why should males get divine right over females?

  • Sal

    ^Exactly right. Everybody deserves a certain level of respect or courtesy just for being part of the human family. But that kind of respect tends to be eroded when somebody is demanding those daily participation trophies, because the latter kind of respect usually requires somebody else to go without the former kind, the one that has to do with having and keeping boundaries.

    I was abused by a parent who believed I owed her unconditional respect just because I had a subservient position as her daughter. To this day – and I’m thirty – she is still unable to respect my boundaries because she doesn’t believe I have any right to set them. Her demand for unconditional respect based on her position of power in my life made it impossible for her to accept my individual identity or my desire for the basic respect that says, “It is okay for you to make choices I might disagree with”.

  • Jewel

    EXCELLENT post! This is the reason I immediately throw out any Christian literature catalog which still happens to make its way to my house. They are all full of toxic trash.