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Use Conflict To Build Respect
“A good reputation and respect are worth much more than silver and gold” (Proverbs 22:1 CEV).
We all have a desire to be respected by others. There are two schools of thought on respect. Some say that in any relationship, including parent-child or employer-employee, you have to give respect to get respect. These people feel that are entitled to withhold respect from their parents or boss until the other person first shows them a sufficient amount of respect. This group will point to Romans 13:7. “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” This verse is not teaching us to withhold respect to others but rather is commanding us to give respect to those that are in governmental authority. The reason is found in Romans 13:1. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
Others say that respect is absolutely required in certain situations. For example, as a father you love your child. They hopefully will love you also, but they certainly must respect you. I have had some young people tell me that they cannot respect their father because he is not a respectable person. My thought is that children do not have to love their father, although that would be ideal, but they must always respect both parents not because of their poor behavior but because they are your parents. Period. You probably have encountered some authority people in your life (e.g., political leaders, law enforcement, boss) that you do not like but you hopefully realized that you must respect their authority.
Malachi 1:6 reads, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master.” There are numerous Bible verses that command a child to honor their father and mother and there is a promise of a long life for doing so (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16). The command to honor the parents is never predicated on if the parents are good, fun, honorable, respectable, etc., but rather is because the parents are the parents. I think we should show respect to our elders, parents, those in authority, and bosses regardless of if we feel they “deserve” our respect.
We all seek respect and desire a good reputation. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good reputation and respect are worth much more than silver and gold.” Sadly, you will likely encounter people that are envious of your good reputation and will act out of jealousy to try to harm your reputation. Those that know your true character will realize that this attack says little about your character but rather speaks volumes about the character of the other person.
In most secular relationships, respect must be earned. Any type of conflict presents an opportunity for us to gain or lose respect. People tend to “tune in” when they realize that you are in some sort of conflict. They will watch you carefully to see how you handle the conflict, and then you will gain or lose respect in their eyes.
The book of Nehemiah is a great example of someone who earned the respect of others by the way he handled conflict. Nehemiah was governor of Persian Judea under Artaxerxes. He responded to God’s call and left this position to lead the effort to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls in an astonishing 52-day period. He had to address a difficult situation in which wealthy Jews were profiteering off the plight of their working countrymen. Nehemiah addressed the profiteering issue in such a way to build respect. Below are a few key actions that he took that are beneficial for us today.
Nehemiah paused to think before he spoke
He listened to the complaints and charges the Israelites had against those who exploited them during a famine. Before he responded, he “pondered them in [his] mind” (Nehemiah 5:7). He thought before he spoke. How many times today do we all do the opposite? We all need to be
“quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20).
Nehemiah privately resolved the conflict
When Nehemiah realized the injustice that was happening, he did not start a slander campaign or publicly attack the offenders or start a whisper campaign to “plant seeds of doubt”. He first tried to build a bridge with the offenders who were taking advantage of the poor to increase their own net worth. He “called together a large meeting to deal with them” (Nehemiah 5:7). He addressed them face to face. That builds respect.
This is also the way Jesus commanded His followers to handle conflict. Jesus said in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.” Going public should be the last resort. Many of the most successful coaches in sports today will publicly praise their athletes and privately correct them. That shows character and builds respect.
Nehemiah appealed to their sense of honor
Nehemiah said to the rich Jews, “What you are doing is not right! Should you not walk in the fear of our God . . . ? . . . but now let us stop this business of charging interest. You must restore their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes” (Nehemiah 5:9-11). They obeyed him because he had their respect and appealed to their sense of honor.
A good leader brings out the best in people and is therefore respected. A poor leader will lead by fear or prejudice but will never gain respect. People can sense your true goals and “If your goals are good, you will be respected” (Proverbs 11:27).
Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for the story of Nehemiah. Help us to use his example to gain respect and use our influence to do good and honor You. Amen.
Meet the Author
Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
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