A few days ago, I had the privilege of going to a water-park with my Angels and another mom and her two sons. All of the children were young–the oldest was a boy about eight.
You know how hungry swimming makes you. Well, we were starved, and so after we left the park we went for lunch. While sitting at the table–three adults, four children–the eldest boy said something I didn’t catch. His mother said, “That wasn’t my son talking.”
The boy paused, clearly thinking about that, then looked at his mother and said, “I wasn’t respecting myself.”
I nearly wept. Here this child reconsidered his words and determined that they were inappropriate because they didn’t show self-respect.
We went on, ate our meal, laughed and joked and had a great day. But his words lingered in my mind and now, days later, they still linger. What a fantastic gift his parents have given him! What a wonderful bit of wisdom he’s perceived and processed and taken into his spirit. He judged his words and the worth of them based on self-respect. Not on the perception by others, but on what he determined they reflected about him to himself.
I’m not sure that even now I’m conveying this with the appropriate magnanimity it deserves. The event was typical to him, profound and significant to me. It wasn’t narcissistic. It wasn’t some sense of self-inflated importance. It wasn’t self-centered, selfish or self-indulgent. The boy knew his mind and heart and what was honorable to him and what traits he wanted to associate with himself–and what traits he did not want to associate.
Many adults don’t know these things or have that sense of self, and yet this child not only knew but had established his own personal boundaries. A philosophy that honored and respected him. I know God had to be smiling at that!
Just as I know we’d do well to follow this child’s example. The Bible in 1 Peter 2:17 tells us to “show proper respect to everyone.” Respect, like love, begins at home in us. We must first respect ourselves before we’re capable of truly respecting others.
We’re very good at chewing ourselves up and hashing over (and rehashing) our every error and flaw. We give what we do wrong a lot of attention. But not nearly as often do we give ourselves credit for what we do right. We inventory and see everything “bad” but don’t spend half the time reviewing our assets. And that, in real terms, means we’re not respecting ourselves.
The lesson to us from this child is that we should determine what we respect and then work to adopt those traits, taking them in and making them a natural part of us. On a spiritual level, it’s our obligation and responsibility.
God fashioned us purposefully and with great precision. We are the body of Christ. Think about that a second. Each of us is a segment of a sacred whole. Christ–God is with us–perfection. This, we, through Him, warrant deep respect. The utmost, most sincere respect. The kind of respect that has us sitting at a table pondering our words and determining whether or not our words, actions and deeds reflect that respect gifted to us from the Most High.
Respect for others is the natural outgrowth of self-respect. If we exercise self-respect, then there is no way we can interact with others without it. Why? Because any disrespect would be a lack of self-respect. Those words, actions or deeds would have us at odds with ourselves.
Recognizing this raises two questions worth asking and answering:
1. Are you functioning at odds with yourself, or are you conducting yourself in a manner that honors who you are, what you believe?
We all know the blessings and inner peace that comes with harmony on this. And we know the bitter challenges that arise when we are not in harmony.
2. Are you respecting yourself?
Not just on the “big” things. But on everything. If we start from that point–the point of self-respect–we’re positioned for great leaps on our spiritual journey. I’m going to remember that.
And I’m going to really listen when kids talk. Like this young one, they have much to say worth hearing, remembering–and worth emulating.
©2008, Vicki Hinze