Should we show others respect?

Is it even necessary these days to show respect to others?

I was speaking about respect recently when it dawned on me that my hearers had little idea of what the term meant nor were they convinced that certain people deserved it at all. A broad shouldered young man explained to me that he didn’t have to respect his aged grandmother because he was stronger than her. Please tell me that we are not in an era where might makes right. “I respect someone because he is bigger, or has more guns.” Another person suggested that he would give respect only to those who respected him.

Of course a teacher who belittles or humiliates his students is not being respectful. But can we say that a teacher exhibits a different kind of respect to his students than a student to his teacher? They occupy different locations in the education system. Likewise a policeman and civilian or judge and defendant should be respectful to each other, though you might have noticed that the judge does not address the defendant as “Your Honor.”

Respect might differ from culture to culture, too. Do you remember the king in The King and I who insisted that schoolteacher Anna keep her head lower than his? In our culture the one being respectful might stand in the presence of a person deserving respect. I don’t imagine it matters the specific manner in which a culture demonstrates respect, but I pity the culture that no longer shows respect to anyone.

Respect: There have been many manifestations of this. Bowing (often in Eastern cultures), a curtsey (by a lady to a royal, perhaps), removing a hat or cap (once considered respectful in our culture, apparently true no longer), greeting others, especially when greeted (ignored by junior highers, who are apparently unaware that other creatures roam their universe), all of these are outward signs of respect given (or not) by various cultures and eras.

So is respect a quality we need in our day? Does it serve a useful purpose? And if so, to whom do we show respect? I suspect many people have no idea why we should be respectful, or what that would be like. Can I offer a useful synonym for “respect”? What about “consideration”? We are being considerate when we give thought to (that is, when we consider) how our actions affect those around us. You are being considerate of their needs. Selfish people see only their own needs; unselfish people realize that disturbing classmates who want to learn is not considerate.

I recall attending a school performance and observing a large group of family and friends standing up after their child completed her performance and walking out. Apparently they believed the only performance of value was that of their own child; other children and other parents were unimportant.

This was inconsiderate!

Those in worship demonstrate consideration by not texting or chattering to the speaker, and those who would like to hear the speaker undisturbed. The Bible says plenty about being considerate to others, but in this case we can add the term “reverence.” We show respect for each other, reverence toward God.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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2 thoughts on “Should we show others respect?

  1. Bro. Stan, you are addressing a greatly-needed topic. Thank you for your keen observations. I’m currently teaching a class on “Character.” I think being respectful of all people is one of the character traits that should characterize God’s people. God bless you, brother! Keep up the great work!

  2. Excellent article. Besides Matthew 7:12, we have 1 Peter 2:17. “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” Honor may be even a step above respect. Every soul is precious in God’s estimation. Thanks for writing these articles for Forthright. They are always helpful.

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