What the world needs now is not only “love, sweet love,” but also “just a little bit” of “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Right, Aretha? Many of our societal problems today stem from a great lack of respect for others and, in particular, respect for authority figures. Often not even “a little bit” of respect is shown for parents, teachers, police, and government leaders.
Exactly what is “respect?’ The word means to esteem or hold in high regard. You mean that guy that I didn’t vote for in that other political party who won the election? Yeah, him. You may not agree with a governmental leader’s view on various issues, but you have to give due respect to the leadership position which he holds. It comes down to separating the person from the position.
How basic is the concept of respect for authority figures? Well, honoring your father and your mother comes in as #5 of the Ten Commandments. Honor means HIGH respect. Regardless of your religious persuasion, a reasonable man must admit that the family is the backbone of society. It is also a microcosm of society. Children who disrespect their parents won’t think twice about mouthing off to a teacher or a police officer. Being raised to honor one’s parents trains a person to honor other authority figures such as government leaders, employers and law enforcement officers.
Some will respond that the Ten Commandments are in the Old Testament and are not really relevant today. Well, the directive to honor one’s parents is also found in the New Testament. It is the only command of Jesus’ that promises long life as a reward. There is nothing magical about obeying that instruction. Families with members exhibiting a healthy respect for all authority figures will be strong families which are the building blocks for a vital and lasting society and nation.
And honoring one’s parent is not a requirement for children just in the sense of minors. No matter how old you get, you will always be your parents’ child. Having to honor your parents does not cease when you are able to vote. Even if children are no longer under their parents’ authority, i.e., adult members of society, they can never outgrow the Biblical command to honor their parents.
How exactly does a “child” (in the sense of offspring and not minority) honor his parents? He needs to be respectful in word and action. Respect does not mean that the child needs to agree with all the opinions of his parents. It does mean that the child should agree to disagree in an agreeable manner. Issues will come and go, but family connections are permanent.
My dad and I did not see eye to eye on politics when I was growing up. Thus, we tried to avoid political discussions or at least terminate them before they became heated. He was a staunch conservative and I, being young and knowing everything (or so I thought), was a bit more moderate. I was a strong supporter of Gov. Jimmy Carter when he ran for president. Dad was not. When Gov. Carter won the presidential election, I baked Dad a peanut cake and lovingly gave it to him without saying “I told you so” as to who would win the election. We both enjoyed a good laugh and some tasty cake. Although I didn’t see eye to eye with Dad, I did not speak disrespectfully to him or belittle him for his views. After all, he was very well educated (had a doctorate in education) and had a great deal more life experience than I. He also took time out of his busy life to have me and raise me correctly.
Respect, however, is a two way street. Any individual, no matter what his age or relationship to you, should be treated with respect. Being in a position of authority does not give anyone a license to be disrespectful or abusive to those over whom he has said authority. And, if you treat people with respect, they are much more likely to return the favor.
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Let’s all sing it together. Then let’s put those lyrics into action. What a wonderful world it might be if we had “just a little bit” more respect for others in it.