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! :)

PERSONAL: Sorry to disappoint you, Julian.
Update and pics from #AACon15. MST3K cast members were at my talk.
PERSONAL: The corrupting power of fame and my love for my commenters.
PERSONAL: Mid day lab pics from the wife.
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.

  • Tara

    Brandon and I like to refer to mine as the brutal honesty. He may not like hearing what I have to say but he loves that he never has to doubt if I’m telling him the truth because I’m always so brutally honest.

    Happy Turkey Day JT!

  • John-Henry Beck

    Now that has me wondering how much turkey it would take to kill a horse. Would it be much? They’re herbivores, after all.

  • John Eberhard

    Friends and family don’t have to always agree, they only have to always care. Happy Thanksgiving, Son, wish you were here.

  • Carol Eberhard

    What a wonderful post and so very true. I am thankful for a wonderful son like you and thankful you have such good friends to share your life with.

    I love you.

    Happy Thanksgiving!!

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    I’m glad you wrote this post, JT. I had an awesome time hanging out with everyone at Skepticon, and I thought everyone else did too. After all those good times, it made me sad that a Twitter flame war broke out pretty much as soon as we all went home!

    Of course, we’re an outspoken and contentious bunch, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s good to know that we can have a knock-down drag-out intellectual fight and still be friends afterward. It proves that we mean what we say about valuing honesty and truth above all else, and that having a disagreement with someone isn’t the same thing as hating them or bearing them ill will.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/blaghag Jen


  • http://twitter.com/girl_noir GirlNoir

    This post. I love it.

    I’ve always told my friends that I see intellectual disagreements as a sort of refining process, where everyone gets to air and sharpen their arguments and discard any weak ones. I agree wholeheartedly that the willingness to challenge one another (and to *be* challenged) is a mark of genuine respect, and it’s the biggest part of why I love this community.

  • Zak Gillman

    Congratulations on having friends who love you enough to be honest with you, especially when they disagree! This has been my metric for when someone transcends merely being an acquaintance and starts becoming a friend.

    And as for becoming a *true* friend? That’s when someone can feel honest enough with me to brutally and heartlessly insult my ass in the most cutting and hurtful way possible… and I laugh openly and honestly at their comment, because I know it’s true and I love them for it. When I can take such things without defensiveness, then I know the person is the truest of friends.

    I hope you have a few of these in your life right now, or if not, that you’ll find them soon.