A Little Respect When You Come Home

Shortly after Christmas, my husband and I had a “small disagreement” that has had me pondering why? over the past few weeks. We enjoyed a wonderful time with both sides of our family over Thanksgiving and Christmas. So how did we end up in a knock-down-drag-out not even a week later? I truly cannot tell you what the disagreement was specifically about. But I know what it was really about: love and respect (or a lack thereof). I am not being loved and respected the way I think I should be. I am not loving and respecting my husband the way he thinks I should be.

We all have a desire for love and respect. We all want to be seen and to be heard. We all long to have significance in the eyes of those we value. Everyone in our families, from the youngest member to the oldest, longs to be loved and to be respected.

How should I demonstrate love and respect to those within my home? What does the Bible teach? How did Jesus show love and respect to others?

Two stories come to mind. The first is in John 4, when Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman. He engaged her in a way that validated who she was as a woman, created in the image of God. Jesus recognized her worth and value as a person. However, he did not validate her sinful behavior. He called it what it was and then moved on to offer everlasting love in the form of salvation. Jesus showed her both love and respect.

The second story is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It is the story of the rich young ruler who asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The final answer Jesus gave was, “sell all that you have and give it to the poor.” The rich young ruler could not do it. Jesus called him to lay down his idols- which is what He asks of us all- and yet He respected the stance the rich young ruler took. Jesus’s love for the rich young ruler remained, as did His expectations of him. Jesus allowed the ruler to walk away. The rich young ruler received both love and respect through this interaction and invitation.

I often manipulate, negotiate, and bargain to get my spouse and my children to see things my way, to achieve the outcome that I desire. I want to believe that my way is best, but if I am honest, I know that only Jesus knows the perfect path for any of us. Jesus laid it out there for the Samaritan woman and the rich young ruler to follow him; however, He allowed them the space to respond. He did not guilt-trip or manipulate either one of them to respond a certain way, nor did He berate either of them for their choices or the consequences. Jesus demonstrated love and respect even as the young man walked away from Him.

One of the goals we have as parents is to prepare our children to leave home equipped with resources to glorify God and love others as well as live as mature adults. This includes modeling love and respect in our homes among family members.

Here’s an example. As a parent, I frequently jump to the word “no” when one of my children asks for something. I need to take a step back and engage my child by asking questions and listening. Recently one child returned from a college visit out of state, and she wanted to turn around a few days later and visit her sister for the weekend at an in state college. I let her talk about it, I let her make some initial plans, all the while saying, “Let’s keep talking about it, my answer is not no, but it is not yes either.” As the time drew closer I finally said, “I think it would be a good idea if you stayed home. You tend to get sick when you run yourself ragged.” She received that information, agreed with me, and ending up staying in town. She felt heard. She recognized that my desire for her to stay was for her protection. She felt respected.

This approach to parenting requires patience and prayer. When my child’s performance on a test is less than stellar, or chore completion is lackluster, I default to reprimands and demands that they rise to a higher standard. There are a lot of reasons to justify these responses and some of those reasons are valid. However, I have learned that when a child does not do his or her best, there is usually something else going on. As a mother I need to dig a little deeper. I need to ask questions rather than chastise. I need to listen rather than dictate. By showing love and respect to my children, I affirm their worth and value.

God’s word reminds us again and again that we are His people, chosen and treasured. My heavenly Father has made it clear in His word that He loves me- not because I have done anything to deserve or earn His love, but because of who He is. My heavenly Father has created each of us in His image, and I respect His image in my husband and our children. That is the picture of God I want to point my family to as we engage in this thing called life.

Ingram Link serves as Director of Women's Ministries at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, AL. She is also the founder and director of Created for a Purpose, a creative arts ministry for rising 3rd - 8th grade girls. She is the wife of David Link, and the mother of Lucy Anne, Hank, Elizabeth and Sallie James. The Links are foodies who love to cook and often have friends and neighbors around the dinner table. Check out the family food Instagram @the.hospitality.link.

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