What I'm Thankful For: Respect – *Real* Respect

“I’m going to do you the respect of being straight with you.”

I cannot count all the times Greta Christina and I have said that to each other (mostly her saying it to me).  It’s become an inside joke, every time we’re about to tell the other we think they’re off base.  The phrase’s existence and constant re-use have taken our very close, caring friendship and made it more so.

It has always befuddled me to for a Christian to hear a critique of their religion and to respond with a demand that I respect them or their faith.  Respect, at least in my eyes, does not mean placating somebody as though they lack the fortitude to withstand criticism.  It does not mean treating somebody as though they’d rather be unaware of an error than hear about it.  Those things are condescension and nobody should want that.

Greta Christina realizes this, and I am thankful.  Now, any time I hear her say “I’m going to do you the respect of being straight with you,” I’m aware I may soon realize something I previously hadn’t and that I may change my mind, and I get excited for the forthcoming opportunity to become a better person.  Whenever she says that phrase, it’s an invitation for me to become a better human being.

Jen McCreight is the same way.  We had a conversation the other day that pretty much ran…

“You’re being an asshole!”
“No I’m not. You’re being a sucker!”
“Yes, you are! …by the way, great job getting linked by Andrew Sullivan!”
“Awww, thanks!  :)”

Disagreement does not mean a lack of, or the end of friendship.  In fact, if you care about someone, you should tell them when you think they’re wrong.  It occurs to me that I can only be thankful for Greta and Jen’s honesty because so many people want to treat friendship or respect as though it means never telling someone you think they’re wrong.  I think most people would be resentful, rather than thankful, for that type of honesty.  Not me.  In fact, that Jen knows she can voice that opinion makes us closer, in my estimation.

I’m also thankful for my friend Floyd, who spoke his mind yesterday honestly.  I think he was wrong (and he came around to that eventually on the point in question), but next time I may be the one in error (stranger things have happened) and he would have rescued me from it.  That’s what a friend should do.  Because we’re so pressured to agree with those close to us all the time for fear of ‘disrespecting’ those we care about, criticizing those close to us is seldom easy.  Then again, if doing the right thing were easy, the world would be full of good people.  I respect, and feel grateful for my friends who will do what isn’t easy.  It tells me how highly they think of me.

So today I’m thankful for all the regular stuff, family, friends, enough turkey to kill a horse, etc.  But I woke up this morning thankful for friends who respect me and who demonstrate that conviction every time they tell me “I’m going to do you the respect of being straight with you.”

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! :)

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Little moments that make life worth living.
Helping Michaelyn make a delicious Halloween treat.
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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.