It’s a lonely word.
At the heart of every Narcissistic family lies disrespect.
Many people cry out for respect, but for some reason it’s become socially approved and hilarious in media to make demeaning and sarcastic remarks about everyone from your spouse, your boss, your children and God. Disrespect robs dignity from all of us and sometimes it even takes away life.
To ridicule, exclude or bear false witness toward someone is to disrespect them. To gossip, triangulate and ostracize is disrespect. To disregard another’s feelings is disrespect. To discredit or blame someone unfairly is definitely disrespect.
Respect empowers a parent to love their child even when they make different choices than they planned for them. Respect allows a parent to discipline with love to protect the child–instead of punishing them for the sake of power. Respect allows us to cherish the children God gives and to love the parents we’ve been given, but in a dysfunctional family respect is neglected.
The fifth commandment tells us to respect our parents. Most people immediately think of a child’s obligation to respect their parents, but respect goes both ways. Parents who feel disrespected are often reaping the adult children they have sown.
When parents bring their newborn home from the hospital they are filled with dreams for their baby. This is respect. As the years go by they might take this gift of life for granted. When parents criticize, judge and call their children derogatory names or take their anger out on their child, they are treating their child with disrespect.
Because every child will eventually become an adult, they deserve respect both for who they are today and who they will become. Every criminal was once an innocent baby, glowing pink with promise. Sometimes, it’s the lack of respect and abuse they were shown as children that contributes to their disrespect for the law. If every parent could just remember that feeling of awe when they first looked at their newborn, they might think twice before beating their child with a belt. They might plan for their child’s future. They might be willing to endure uncomfortable days at school or hard work on the job to make a better life and to provide for their children.
Disrespect is an insidious poison that never ends with childhood because children’s memories don’t dissolve when they reach eighteen. The words spoken in childhood, set the bedrock for relationships in adulthood. When a child grows up seeing disrespect modeled toward other adults and family members, it’s hard for them to respect their parents or themselves.
Some items people say, “I can’t respect him anymore,” this is because they are speaking about another person’s behavior, but no matter what someone has done, we can still respect them as a fellow human being and child of God. It’s hard to sometimes, but we can still show kindness and respect for another person without putting our stamp of approval on their choices. While we should respect them for who they are and what they have done, respect does not mean we need to support them when harming other people–including ourselves.
Bullies and gossips often show disrespect to people in an attempt to tear down others so they can build themselves up. I once knew a pastor who was having an affair with a young woman. Every week he preached about Sodom and Gomorrah. He was obsessed with preaching against gays because he felt better about his own heterosexual sins as long as he imagined gay people being worse than he was. Gossips often focus on how others eat or dress or spend their money so they can feel better about themselves.
The same is true with divorce. There is a saying “The best way to know if a person is safe to marry is to find out how they treated their ex.” If only ex-spouses could remember their ex is still their child’s parent. If you respected this person enough to marry them at one time, then try to treat them with dignity in front of your children.
Those who disrespect others, often lack respect for self. When we respect ourselves, we learn to forgive ourselves for our mistakes, we have more grace, compassion and respect for others. Part of the cure for disrespect is to recognize our own value and see the good in other people from God’s perspective.
Disrespect might be the instigator of dysfunction, but it is merely the hole left by lack of respect that does the damage. When we choose respect, we can restore what’s been broken. Regardless of the past, regardless of the pain, we can always start by showing respect to each other today. If the members of a family have mutual respect for each other, they can always build a bridge.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger
by the way you treat them.
Rather, bring them up with the discipline
and instruction that comes from the Lord.
-Ephesians 6:4, NLT