All (due) Respect

wadr-logoI found myself prefacing a comment on facebook last week with the phrase “with all due respect.”  Admittedly, that was more filler than thoughtful; if what followed felt like a blow, I added the preface to soften it.

Then I got to thinking about respect.  My mind can’t go there without quickly passing through 2 thoughts.  The first, of course, comes courtesy of Aretha Franklin. Thank you, Ms. Franklin.

The second thought is from a time when I was in youth ministry. Trying to counsel a high school student through his parent’s divorce, I was struck with an insight that, honestly, impressed me.

I had been encouraging the young man to treat his parents with respect because they deserved it.  I’m a parent, and I like that line of reasoning.

On the other hand, I knew some of the choices his parents were making were not good choices.

In other words, they were not, in many ways, earning respect.

So, here’s that insight that surprised and impressed me: “Sometimes,” I said, “you have to treat people with respect because you want to be that kind of person. Someone who treats others with respect.”

(You might wonder why that so surprised – and impressed – to think of such a common sensical sort of thing.  Be patient with me; I’m still learning this thing called life.)

We who are parents like to think we can command the respect of our children simply because we are parents.  While I would agree we should be able to get some mileage out of this, if the ONLY basis you have for expecting your children to treat you with respect is ‘I’m the parent, that’s why!’ then I’m afraid you are going to be in for a lot of disappointment and heartache.

With all due respect, parents (and adults in general), let’s act in ways that deserve respect rather than just demanding we be treated with respect.

Let’s start with treating others with respect. Whether we feel they deserve it or not. Let’s respect others because of who we are.


Jesus was never an adolescent.

We can often find comfort in knowing that Jesus went through the kinds of things we go through.  He faced temptation, betrayal, gossip, and the like.  This time of year, I also remember, and usually remind my congregation, that Jesus also faced such things as dirty diapers and nights when sleep didn’t come so easy.

There is, however, one thing that we all face, or have faced, that Jesus didn’t.

Jesus was never an adolescent.

This is because adolescence is a cultural construct.  it is the time between physiological maturity and culturally recognized maturity.

In Jesus’ day, puberty was later and recognition as an adult came earlier.  In fact, the bar and bat mitzvah, traditionally held at 13 for boys and 12 for girls, often preceded pubescence in Jesus’ time.  Since Bar and bat mitzvahs were their coming of age rituals, afterwards those honored were recognized as adults.

Today, when in the US is a young person recognized as an adult?  When they can drive (16)?  When they can vote (18)? When they can drink alcohol (21)?  (Adolescence would be difficult enough even if we had a specific age at which one became an adult.  We string them along for at least a decade.)

So take it easy on adolescents.  They are going through something even Jesus never had to face!

If it doesn’t take a village, it at least takes an adult.

Last night we did a session about grief with our kids.  The topic was timely as many of our kids face difficult times in upcoming homevisits for the holidays.

If you think Thanksgiving with the family is tough, try being an adolescent whose mom or dad choose the new spouse over you, which panded you in a residential care home.

During our time together last night,w e were all invited to write down and share what has made us the saddest. Several kids wrote that their mother or father gave them up in exchange for a new husband or wife.

I remember when, in 1996, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s It Takes a Village was published. Many people reacted against the notion that families could not be expected to raise their own children.

I believe that the main thing it takes to successfully raise children these days is for those of us who are adults to actually start acting like adults.

Real adults don’t chose a new relationship with another adult over their own children.

It broke my heart to read those notes, written last night, with things like “my mom chose her new husband over me.”  It broke my heart a few minutes later when I realized that my own daughter, now 22, may well have felt that way about me at some point in her life, since her mom and I divorced when she was 13.  There were some rocky years in there.

So, yes, while I am railing against all those adults who choose some new hunny over their own child or children, I am not standing off at a distance and addressing it condescendingly.

This is OUR problem, not theirs.  We, all of us adults, must do the hard work of behaving in all the mature ways we would like our children to grow up into.