(Secret: Respect Others)
My parents used to love reminding me about this one. They used to jokingly call it “the most important commandment!” I had a very wise Sunday School teacher and he taught us that this Commandment went both ways, and that parents are also expected to honor and respect their children! After all children are blessings and therefore should be valued as such. I used to love reminded my parents about that perspective as my rebuttal to their comments!
When I think about the words “Honor your mother and father,” I instantly get an image of these well-behaved, well-mannered children who follow all instructions with a bow and a smile. This doesn’t sound like such a horrible thing does it? Some children may ask questions like, “Why should we obey our parents?” Other than, “God commands it,” or “because it pleases the Lord,” there is one glaring reason to me as to why one should follow this commandment as is: 1.) Parents and other authority figures typically have decades more life experience, education, and thus typically have a much greater capacity for compassion than a child has. Adults therefore are more than likely in the better position to offer both guidance and safety opportunities for a child. 2.) Learning how to respect our parents will teach children how to respect others and ourselves as well. This skill will set up children for success in their careers, relationships, and life in general in any civilized society. If you ever want to be in a healthy relationship, and have a family, and a stable job, and not be imprisoned, then learning early on how to respect your elders and other authority figures is an essential skill to master.
The Importance of Family
I can remember the day when I learned that this Commandment went both ways: that children should respect their parents and that parents should also honor and respect their children. Those two rules gave me a visual of loving and giving parents who are kind and gentle with their children, and sweet children who are kind and respectful to their parents. What a wonderful place a family and a home could be if we all followed this commandment exactly as it is written.
As a therapist, (and as a person with my eyes and ears open) I am all too aware that this is not always the case. I hear and see and read about more children getting out of control, assaulting their parents, and disrespecting their teachers and elders, and communities in general. I hear about all forms of child abuse and cruelty, abandonment, and then I see those children struggling to figure it all out on their own. These lost children find communities in things like gangs and cults, and becoming more and more angry, and violent. This reality is in juxtaposition to what the original commandment wanted us to visualize. As a society, we never needed to understand this commandment more than now. As a society, if we want our civilization to survive, we need to save and honor the traditional notion of Family.
The negative impact of child abuse, domestic violence, trauma, parental abandonment, foster care, divorce, and growing up fatherless are too lengthy for the purposes of this book. So much sadness and pain is caused by all the aforementioned issues. The two issues that I will touch on in this chapter will be on Fatherlessness, and child abuse.
Fatherlessness is a real big problem in America right now, and it is a problem that is under researched and underappreciated for how impactful it is on a child. The National Fatherhood Initiative (2017), reported that 1 in 4 children in America currently live without a father. These children are four times as likely to be impoverished, seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teen, two times more likely to die in infancy, two times as likely to drop out of high school, and more likely to commit a crime, go to prison and have substance abuse issues. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services reported, “Children living in female-headed households with no spouse present have a poverty rate of 47.6%. This is four times the rate of children living in married couple families,” (2012). Outside of poverty, and other heath factors that are increased (like obesity) children who grow up in father-absent homes are 279% more likely to carry guns and deal drugs than peers living with their fathers (National Fatherhood Initiative, 7th edition, 2015.) The long and the short of it is, kids without dads have a tough road. Never underestimate the role of the father. The commandment was right, children should “Honor thy Father.” Concurrently, adult men and women need to honor the role of the father. Our children and our society will continue to suffer until we do this.
Children with a history of child abuse are at a greater risk for a slew of problems ranging from poor physical health, injuries, increased risk of chronic health conditions, chronic mental health conditions like Borderline Personality disorder, Bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, substance abuse issues, and incarceration.
In one study performed by the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) on child abuse, they found that 28% of children with a history of abuse had a chronic health condition (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2013). Another study utilizing a trauma questionnaire known as the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) found that 58% of suicide attempts in women were connected to an adverse childhood experience.
The ACE questionnaire is a simple 10 question document that asks a participant to answer yes or no to 10 different experiences. A person gets one point for every “yes,” and zero points for a “no.” ACE researchers have found that individuals with scores of 4 or higher are at a 1000% greater risk for developing chronic health problems. Individuals with ACE scores of 4 and higher are also seven times as likely to become alcoholics, twice as likely to get cancer, and 12 times more likely to have attempted suicide (Aces Too High.) The physical and psychological warfare that abuse and trauma wreak on a person’s mind are unparalleled. Something else to keep in mind is the amount of money abuse and trauma cost taxpayers and the community. The financial burden placed on society from child abuse is astounding, and is something that I think most people forget about. “The lifetime cost of child maltreatment and related fatalities in 1 year totals $124 billion,” according to a study funded by the CDC. Again, if we want to save our society, we have to save the Family.
The Dangers of NOT Respecting Others
Just to drive this point home, let’s picture a child who struggles with abuse at home. He grows up with poor self-esteem, no healthy role models, and performs poorly in school. His drive to succeed is stifled, and maybe he turns to drugs and alcohol for comfort, and gets in frequent fights with others. He will eventually drop out of school, and struggle to find a job, until he gives up and turns to welfare. After decades of drinking, he now has a host of medical problems that the state now has to pay for. He is also at a community mental health facility for his depression, which is also being paid for by the state. This little boy, who was never respected by his parents, never learned how to respect himself or others, and now is 40 years old living off the state, and he too is now neglecting his own children, if he even knows they exist. This picture also did not add in the cost of the possible domestic violence calls the police had to take care of. Maybe this boy had to be sent to Foster Care, and Child Protection Services had to be brought in, with therapists or occupational therapists, etc. All of this pain and suffering and money could have all been spared if his parents just could have loved him more than they loved themselves.
I cannot write enough about how terrible the short term and long term effects of child abuse are. If I could wave a magic wand and end one thing on this planet it would be child abuse. Patience and compassion cost nothing, and those are two main ingredients needed to stop child abuse. The abuse needs to end.
The Secret Coping Skill: Respect Others
At its core, this commandment is telling us to Respect people! The word respect is translated from the Greek word timēsate, meaning “honor or value.” When one takes the literal translation, respecting something ultimately means to “place a great value or high price on something.” So when I say, “RESPECT PEOPLE” I am telling you to “VALUE PEOPLE.” Value a person over your time, money, or reputation. Value a person’s life and family and efforts over your car, time, or your other material possessions. That is respect.
Now that the word respect has been defined as “valuing people,” I believe that this secret is really easy to apply. Basically, don’t be a jerk. Be respectful and nice to other human beings, especially your family members. I have seen animals treated better than people and it is tragically sad. Respect takes minimal effort, and it will maximize your experience of positive feelings and emotions. Due to what is called the Cognitive Triangle, when can either manipulate, or be manipulated by our feelings. The Cognitive Triangle is a psychological construct that consists of three factors: Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors/Actions, and they are intricately and automatically connected. The moment we do a conscious behavior, we will subsequently have a connected thought and feeling with that behavior. The moment you have a feeling, experience an emotion, you will subsequent thought and behavior; and likewise when you have a thought you will subsequently have a connected feeling and behavior from it. Because of this Cognitive Triangle, when we do Behaviors like, “respect our neighbor,” this will immediately make us both Think things like, “wow I am a nice guy,” or “that was nice,” and Feel emotions like, pride, or happiness. Or when you think, “I am a respectful person,” you will more than likely experience positive feelings, and behave respectfully. This cycle is always operating. Now that you have been introduced to it, I challenge you all to closely monitor your Cognitive Triangle, and practice more respect and see how it makes you think, feel, and behave.
Respect In Action
Be respectful, especially to your family. In my clinical experience, no worse psychological harm can be committed than when a trusted family member harms one of their own. Being betrayed by a trusted family member makes a person feel unvalued, and betraying a trusted family member will also make you feel bad about yourself. So don’t do it! Respect your parents, respect your children, respect your elders, community members, etc. If you are struggling with respecting someone, than at least do no harm, and say nothing, do nothing. Remember, while doing nothing might seem like it is the less harmful approach, it doesn’t necessarily make it the “right” approach. Because if it’s the hard thing to do, it’s typically the right thing to do. Likewise, it it’s the easy thing to do, it is probably the wrong thing to do.
While ignoring is not kind, if that is the best you can afford in that moment, it is still better than a rude, nasty comment or physical assault. If you can increase respect for others, it will model for yourself and others how to be respected as well and thus increase your own self-respect because you are now acting like a respectable human being. It makes it harder to respect yourself when you are screaming at others and engaging in disrespectful behaviors.
Examples of respecting others in the Bible are everywhere. Jesus respected the prostitutes (Luke, 7: 36-50), David respected Saul (1 Samuel 24: 8-10), and the lions respected the lambs on Noah’s Arc. When you respect others, you subsequently become more respectable to yourself and others.
Dare to Dream
Like all the other suggestions and tips in this book, practicing respect for others and yourself is a non-medicated approach to improving your personal levels of happiness and life satisfaction. When we die we cannot take with us our relationships, our money, or any of our awards. One of the few things that can last beyond our frail human bodies is our reputation. It is up to you to be remembered either notoriously, honorably or not at all. May we all choose to try to be remembered as respectable human beings, who respected others. May we all strive to be such respectful human beings that one day parents want to name their children after us! There is a reason why there are a million people in the world named “Jesus” out there and not one person named “Satan.” Prophet or Son of God, Jesus is believed by most of the world that he was at the very least, a respectful human being who preached about the importance of love, and the importance of respecting each other. Dare to imagine how much better the world would be if we could all follow such a simple idea.
Practical Ways of Applying “Respecting Others” as a Coping Skill
Respecting Others is a great way of living a happier life. Below is a list of practical was of applying this skill to your everyday life:
- Respect your parents, respect your kids, respect that stranger on the street, respect your neighbor and your neighbor’s kids etc. Disrespecting others will bring you no joy, while respecting others will increase your own levels of self-respect and pride. Try not to yell, scream, or demean others. Do not abuse others.
- Respect your body and your spirit. Eat well. Go to that doctors appointment. Speak kindly to yourself. Take vitamins, drink water, and wear sunscreen! Buckle up!
- Treat others like you would want to be treated. “The Golden Rule.”
- Increase patience.
- Don’t be violent. Don’t be violent to yourself, to others, or to the environment. Also don’t vandalize property. Don’t be violent with your actions or your words. “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.”
- Don’t lie. Be respectful enough to be truthful.
- Don’t gossip.
- Stop speeding. Respect others enough to let them make it to your jobs and their homes safety. Respect pedestrians, and cyclist enough so that they make it home safely. They are all human beings. Respect them.