Respect Others — Even if They Haven’t Earned It
How to respect people who don’t “deserve” respect
Doug Britton, MFT
Introduction: It can be hard to respect others
I often hear one person say something along the lines of, “He (or she) hasn’t earned my respect.” Spouses often say this about each other. Parents say this about their teenage or adult children. Children say this about their parents. Most of us slip into this way of thinking when we talk about politicians.
It’s normal to feel this way, yet it isn’t the attitude God wants us to have. We can be aware of others’ faults, and there may be times when we need to discuss problems or confront sin, yet the Bible tells us that we need to maintain an attitude of respect for everybody.
May these guidelines, adapted from Chapter 5 of the book Encouraging Your Spouse, help you develop a godly, respectful attitude toward those around you.
Show respect because God commands it
A good starting point is to respect others because God said to. For example, we read in the Bible that husbands and wives are to respect their spouse:
… and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33)
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect … (1 Peter 3:7)
The same principle applies to other relationships. Peter wrote that we should show respect to everyone and honor the king, although the king in those days was an evil person (1 Peter 2:17).
Related: What does God say about anger?
Respect others because of their position
You can respect your spouse, boss, children, parents, and others because of their position. For example, after David killed Goliath, he became more popular than King Saul. Saul became jealous and determined to kill David, so David fled.
Saul gathered his army and chased David. On two different occasions, when Saul’s army was pursuing David, David had the chance to kill Saul.
Most of us would say David had every right to kill Saul. After all, Saul was trying to kill him. Yet although he knew that Saul’s actions did not deserve respect, David honored Saul as his king and refused to kill him. At his second opportunity to kill Saul, David said, “The LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD’S anointed” (1 Samuel 26:11).
God wants you to respect others because of their position in your life.
Acknowledge that others have weaknesses
Everyone is imperfect. Be careful not to let their failures erode your respect for their good qualities.
Related: Replace irritation with grace
Look for things that you can respect
You can find something to respect in anybody if you look hard enough.
Respect others as children of God
When with Christians, you are with God’s children and should honor them accordingly—regardless of how they are acting. (Of course, when you are with non-Christians, respect is still necessary.)
Respect others as made in the image of God
The Bible says, “For in the image of God has God made man” (Genesis 9:6). Whether or not someone is a Christian, honor him or her as God’s creation.
Honor others because God loves them
The Bible says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Do not dishonor someone God loves.
Respect others’ desire to be good people
Your husband, wife, parent, child, boss or employee may make foolish decisions. He or she may be lazy and forgetful. Yet chances are good he or she wants to be a good person and do the right thing. You can respect the desire of someone’s heart even if you are disappointed by his or her actions.
Related: How to love others as-is
Honor others for their potential
See others as God does. Each of us has an amazing potential. Gideon was a fearful man, living hidden from the enemy, yet the angel of the Lord greeted him by saying, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12). The angels greeting was not because of anything Gideon had done, but because he knew how God planned to use Gideon.
Who is someone you have had trouble respecting?
Which of these insights will help you treat him or her with more respect—even if he or she has not “earned” your respect?
Related: Why should I love my enemies?
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About Doug Britton, MFT
Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)
Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.