Wednesday, September 03, 2008

musing...

"show proper respect to everyone, love your fellow believers, fear God, honor the emperor." i peter 2:17

"always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. but do this with gentleness and respect." -i peter 3:15

"a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." -proverbs 15:1

as a child one of my mentors taught me that respect is defined by the object.  thus, you respect a man or woman when they respect you. 

as you can imagine, this advice, when combined with my contrarian nature, led to constant conflicts with adults and authority figures. when my friend's meddlesome mother encouraged me to help my mom clean up after supper, i asked who gave her the right to tell me what to do. likewise, when an art teacher chided me in fourth grade, i decided to make her lunch duty a little slice of hell by organizing a student sit out. i could go on, but you get the idea.

i'd love to say that God, the Holy Spirit or scripture turned my act around and taught me that respect is a loving act that one extends regardless of the integrity of the object, but that simply would not be true. instead, i learned respect over the past year and a half as i've persuaded, begged and pleaded middle managers at the local market basket and supervisors at walgreens to give my students an opportunity to transition into the workplace. as a beggar you learn pretty quick that if you're asking an employer about an opening, "sir" or "ma'am" is a far more welcome introduction than "hello chris" or "hi nancy." the more formal my language got, and the more southern twang i slipped in, the more successful my cold calls were and the more convinced i became that the road to relationship is paved by respect.

tonight, as i stumbled across the scriptures above, i was reminded of this basic lesson that took me 30 years to learn and i've wrote it down more to remind myself than to instruct others. i readily admit that i still struggle with popping off to cops and when i slide into southern speak you'd best put your boots on, but i'm learning that respecting others is close to the holy and hidden heart of life.

4 comments:

.... said...

so when i read "as a beggar you learn pretty quick that if you're asking an employer about an opening, "sir" or "ma'am" is a far more welcome introduction than "hello chris" or "hi nancy." the more formal my language got, and the more southern twang i slipped in, the more successful my cold calls were and the more convinced i became that the road to relationship is paved by respect."

i couldn't help but wonder if it is "respect" that paved the road to a relationship or just good old fashioned socio-political capital. when i am trying to convince a client to let me remodel their house i do the same thing, only i add in a touch of something that conveys the idea that i am a blue-collar-carpenter-this-guy-just-feels-like-a dude-who-was-born-with a hammer in his hand. when i am trying to get a gig shooting a wedding i change it to this guy is a rockstar-artist-type. it has nothing to do with respect and everything to do with playing upon peoples preconceived notions of what a carpenter or a photographer is.

just saying.

just saying it is good marketing and not respect. if i really respect someone i don't do any of that stuff. i don't do it cause i view them as a real human person and when i do that i no longer have an agenda.

but i dono. maybe you are different.

John said...

this makes sense to me. to be honest i wish god's transformative work in my life had a little more to do with magic and a little less to do with humiliation, but that's not what I've found. the spirit's presence in my life usually looks a lot more like balaam's ass than a dove or tongues of fire.

kristi said...

what i thought of right away is (1) this is really convicting, and i fail at this 99% of the time, or maybe more; and (2) there IS a big difference between southern twang and a "gentle answer turns away wrath."

re: (1) i want to be the kind of person who gives gentle answers, yet i'm constantly angry, stubborn, impatient, flippant, sarcastic. and i do agree with you that becoming the kind of person who is the antithesis of who i am now really will be "the holy and hidden heart of life." (i love that line!)

re: (2) i am a southern girl, born and raised whether i like it or not. southern church especially taught me that when you want to disagree with someone, you smile "real nice" and politely tell them to shove it up their a$%. the flipside of this teaching is that southern-ness is to be used to get what we want. (actually this isn't the flipside; i guess it's the same).

i know women who can cut you open with a knife (my mother-in-law being an example!) with just a few words, said with a smile and while seeming "nice as pie."

i don't agree with (....) that you are just using good marketing and no respect, but i would be careful how i described this (since "being southern" can have so many negative connotations and not many positive ones!).

i also see a great difference between manipulating people to get their bid for a photo shoot (....) and trying to convince someone to give a person a chance to do something great with his life. the latter seems altruistic; the former is self-serving...

i'm just saying.:)

g13 said...

thanks for the honest feedback and john, thank you for joining the conversation!

as both mike and kristi alluded to, i suspect that there is an inpenetrable mixture of sincerity and scheming at the heart of both my expressions of respect and my inner self.

initially, i'd say that "sir" and "ma'am" were clearly instrumental terms that were employed to secure my intended ends. however, as i continued extending respect to others i learned that people are hungry for dignity. in a theological sense perhaps we could even say that respecting others is a way of affirming the imago dei in each individual and speaking into the heart of their being. throughout my time as an employment specialist i also learned that the more i extended simple courtesies towards employers the more i began to consider others worthy of gentleness, kindness and respect.

please note, that as mike alludes to, i am also constantly afraid of succumbing to my own bullsh*t.

kristi - i'm glad you liked that turn of phrase concerning the heart of life and wish i had written it. that expression is cribbed directly from uncle freddy buechner.