Honor and Respect

I don’t plan to do a series on Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” But the second chapter in the book prompted a chain of thought which I think will complement our last post on the subject.

Honor Everyone

Carnegie’s second principle is “Give honest, sincere appreciation.” The Biblical equivalent can be found here:

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
1 Peter 3:17

The Bible uses the term “honor” instead of “appreciation,” but the meaning is similar. For clarity’s sake, I’ll include a definition for the word honor:

hon-or (verb)
1. to regard or treat (someone) with respect and admiration : to show or give honor to (someone)
2. to show admiration for (someone or something) in a public way : to give a public honor to (someone or something)
3. to do what is required by (something, such as a promise or a contract)
(Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Sometimes honor is a public affair, as when King Ahasuerus honored Mordecai in Esther 6:1–11. But it isn’t necessarily public, for we are told to honor our parents – and as Jesus indicates in Matthew 15:1–6, that applies to our private lives as well.

Generally speaking, the Bible teaches us that we are to lead honorable lives and to give honor to others.

Being Honorable

Romans 12:17 tells us that instead of returning evil for evil, we ought to give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. Paul held himself to this standard as well, aiming at “what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.” (1 Corinthians 8:21)

As Christians, we should certainly work to lead an honorable life in the sight of God. But we should also work to lead an honorable life in the sight of those around us. We ought to be making a conscious effort to act in a manner worthy of respect and admiration.

In his first letter to the Corinthians (as quoted above), Paul writes that, at the appointment of the churches, he was traveling with a brother who was a famous preacher. He was very careful to have accountability in his handling of the church’s offerings. He was doing right by the churches, distributing it fairly; and he certainly was accountable to the Lord for his actions first. But nonetheless he took additional measures to be clearly honorable and above criticism when handling the church’s gifts.

Doing what is honorable in the sight of all doesn’t mean compromising our moral high ground. Jesus was the Son of God incarnate, holiness on earth. His sinless life made him many enemies, especially among the religious leaders. Yet for all that, we read in Luke 2:52 that he grew “in favor with God and man.” If we are to be like Christ, we should likewise be growing in favor with God and man.

If we aren’t – why not?

Honoring Others

1 Peter 2:17 tells us that we are to honor everyone. More particularly, we are to honor authorities – the emperor (1 Peter 2:17), our parents (Ephesians 6:2), governors (Romans 13:7), employers (1 Timothy 6:1–2), and elders (1 Timothy 5:17). Notice that the honor due to authorities is due by virtue of their position, not their performance. Rather, authorities who rule well should be given double honor (1 Timothy 5:17).

Besides authorities, we ought to honor our fellow Christians. Within the body of Christ, some members are more or less honorable; God has created the Church so that we can give more honor to those parts which are lacking (1 Corinthians 12:24). It may seem counterintuitive to give honor to someone who doesn’t deserve it, but it’s a documented fact of leadership that giving a person respect (even if they don’t deserve it) does far more to help them become respectable than withholding it.

Husbands and wives are commanded to honor each other (Ephesians 5:33; 1 Peter 3:7).

And, last but not least, we are commanded generally to honor everyone. We ought to act with gentleness and respect, “so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:16).

That’s a tall order.

Do you honor and respect everyone, as the Bible commands? Or only those who deserve it?

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4 thoughts on “Honor and Respect

  1. it’s a documented fact of leadership that giving a person respect (even if they don’t deserve it) does far more to help them become respectable than withholding it.

    I disagree. Giving them respect anyways enables them to continue to remain as bad leaders. THAT is a documented fact, not vice versa. You may argue that we must show respect due to position in spite of performance, and I agree- but only to a certain extent. I can think of at least three people off the top of my head who are shown respect and are using it to continue to be bad leaders- our current President, Ergun Caner, the Pope, etc. They’re all being shown respect, and it’s not helping them to become more respectable. It’s creating the polar opposite effect.

  2. “Giving them respect anyways enables them to continue to remain as bad leaders.”

    I don’t think that’s true. In the examples that you give, it’s not the respect of those who disagree that enables them to continue to remain as bad leaders. It’s the followers who egg them on and encourage them in their evil ways.

    1. No doubt that plays a factor, but so does showing them respect. If their follower(s) is respectful, they can nod their heads and smile at potential objections and critical remarks but finally continue on in their sinful ways because they see little to fear from someone who continues to respect them in spite of their sin.

      But I suppose abuse of authority doesn’t prove the principle wrong. Good leaders will flourish if their followers honor them in spite of their occasional mistakes and hopefully minor flaws. I think I agree with you largely, but the apologist in me wants to mention abuses of a principle.

      1. “If their follower(s) is respectful, they can nod their heads and smile at potential objections and critical remarks but finally continue on in their sinful ways because they see little to fear from someone who continues to respect them in spite of their sin.”

        That may be true, but I think all of the examples that you’ve just cited show that bad leaders can continue in their evil ways in the face of disrespect just as well.

        It’s simply an aspect of human nature. Generally speaking, we take rebuke better when it’s given to us with respect than when it’s given disrespectfully. As the Bible says, “a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

        Not everyone will take criticism even if it is given with respect. But it’s very rare that disrespect will win them over where respect didn’t. (The comment you reposted on Facebook recently seems to apply here.)

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