We all want to be heard. We all want to be seen. In short – we all want to be respected. On average, we feel like we are not getting the respect we deserve. So how do we get this respect? Mr Whitington, Senior Chaplain at NBCS, shares about Respect in his latest Chapel video.
Have you ever been talking to someone and you’re making a point, but they interrupt you? Have you ever been sharing a story with a group of people, but they don’t pay attention? Have you ever shared something you thought to be funny, but no-one laughed? Or perhaps you’ve been laughed at when you didn’t want to be laughed at? Have you ever been ignored, excluded, not seen, or not replied to? On a lighter note, but no less real, have you ever posted something on a social media platform such as Instagram or Facebook, but not received the likes or comments you thought you would?
If this is you in any of these scenarios, you’ve tapped into what social researcher Hugh Mackay calls ‘our No.1 desire’ in life. In his book, ‘What makes us tick,’ Mackay outlines 10 desires that drive us as humans. But the desire at the top of that list is:
‘The desire to be taken seriously.’
His research suggests that we all want to be valued. We all want to be heard. We all want to be seen. In short – we all want to be respected. And Mackay says that on average, we feel like we are not getting the respect we deserve.
So how do we get this respect? There’s traditionally two options.
The first is that we gain the respect of others. It’s the affirmation you receive from your teacher when you answer something correctly. It’s the high mark you earn in an assessment task so you’re known to be competent and intelligent. It’s the athlete being cheered on by their teammates and the crowd. It’s the popular person being admired for their good looks and social status. It’s the funny person who needs everyone to laugh with them. It’s person who has a huge number of likes on their Instagram account. There is nothing inherently wrong in any of these things.
The problem is though – if we only go after the respect of others, we give those people so much power. And if we give our power to others, there is so much out of our control! Your world could change in a second because all it takes is a few people to not respect you, and you’re a mess. It’s a constant performance! And that’s no way to live because it creates an anxious existence. Furthermore, the problem with relying on the respect of others is that this desire is never-ending. The person who wants 10 likes eventually wants 100 likes. The person who wants 100 likes eventually wants 1000 likes. How many extra marks will it take for you to truly gain respect? How many affirming comments do you need for there to be enough? Ironically, if we pursue that path, we become desperate for respect, then we come across as needy. And in trying to be liked, we end up becoming less likable. Then we’re less likely to gain the respect we wanted in the first place! It’s a vicious circle.
So what’s the second option to gain respect?
The second option is: I don’t need the respect of others, all I need is self-respect. This can be quite healthy. For example, an organisation known as the Respect Institute nobly deals with victims of abuse, domestic violence and bullying to work on seeing themselves as valuable. Often, these people feel worthless because of the way they’ve been treated. So perhaps respect only needs to come from within. But there are limitations to this too, as we don’t just live by ourselves. We all need friends. And even if you think you don’t, we all have to engage with other people, in multiple communities, every day. If we only think about ourselves then we could be terrible to live with and be around. Even worse, we could cause great harm to others and the world around us.
It’s tricky. But what if there’s a third way though? Initially, a third way sounds like we need a combination of respect from others and self-respect. But there are times in our life when both fail. What then? That can’t be the third way. Come a little deeper with me, because the Bible says if we have God, this changes everything. It’s a little complex, but let me share a quick story to illustrate it and I know we’ll get it.
In 1988 I was six years old, and I was totally into Transformers. I had a few toys, but there was one I didn’t have – Optimus Prime. He was a red and blue truck and the leader of the Autobots. One morning my pop decided to take me to the toy shop. As we drove to the shop in his brown Mitsubishi Sigma, I could picture Optimus Prime in my hands. This was the mach daddy of toys – I couldn’t believe I was finally going to get it! We got into the store, and I ran straight to the aisle and the shelf where Optimus Prime was. I knew exactly where he was as I’d been eyeing him off for months. That’s right – him, not it. I picked him up off the shelf, ran to the counter, pop pulled out his wallet – but then something happened.
Pop put his glasses on and started looking closely at the toy. Then he started shaking it.
My internal monologue went something like this: ‘c’mon pop, what are you doing, just fork out the cash.’
He put his wallet down, handed me Optimus Prime, and said: ‘the price tag says $45. But based on the amount of plastic in this thing, I’d says it’s worth about $3. Go put it back and choose another one. Maybe one with more metal.’
My heart sank as I put Optimus back and picked up Bumblebee.
But my pop picked up on an interesting concept: The ‘intrinsic worth’ of Optimus Prime – that is, how much all the metals and plastics were worth – was probably about $3. But the ‘extrinsic worth’ of Optimus Prime – what most people were willing to pay – was $45.
When it comes to God and where we get our worth and respect from, we can break it down into these two categories too. When we speak of intrinsic worth and respect, we know that God created us in his own image. Trees, mountains and the seas aren’t created in God’s image. Animals aren’t created in God’s image. But humans are. God says we are like him. It doesn’t matter how big, how small, what gender, what colour we are – we all have intrinsic value and worth.
But we don’t just have intrinsic worth with God, we have extrinsic worth too. In my story, pop would rather keep the $45 because he didn’t think Optimus Prime was worth that much money. But Jesus would prefer to pay the price to get us back, rather than not pay it and miss out on a relationship with us. His death on the cross was the highest price he could have paid, and this speaks volumes to how much he values and respects us.
So as we go forward this week, may you get the respect of others and respect yourself. But as you come to realise this doesn’t always work, I hope you see the truth and beauty of the respect, value and worth God gives you. Can you imagine having this a foundation as you go through life! May you enjoy the freedom and security that comes with understanding this. And next time we meet, we will unpack how to do this a little more.
‘For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ’ – 1 Peter 1:18-19