As I write this devotional, Aretha Franklin is reported to be gravely ill. And over the past couple of weeks, we have been talking a great deal about the subject of one of her greatest songs – “Respect.” In that song, Aretha spells out the word and asks the listener to “find out what that means to me.” As the song advances, we learn that it means a great deal to her, to the point that she tells her man that if he doesn’t show her “just a little bit” of respect, she may be gone when he gets home.

People often compliment us about our articulate and accomplished daughters. Kaia is a third year family medicine resident in Anchorage, AK, and next month, Annika will be starting school at The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. Of course, we are very proud of both of them. But what, apart from good genes, contributed to both of them becoming such strong young women?

One of the primary factors has to be being treated with respect as they grew up. We tried to consistently listen to them, and to encourage them to find and express their own voice about things and situations they encountered. This allowed them to gradually build confidence in their own capacities and decision making which in turn encouraged others to treat them with respect, further empowering them to face new challenges.

We have been thinking a lot about this subject over the past couple of years, because Jan has had the experience of losing that sense of power and efficacy due to having her voice taken away or ignored. This, in turn, has terribly activated and aggravated her PTSD, to the point of shattering her self-confidence and leading her to withdraw from the world.

Jesus knew the importance of listening to people who are not in positions of power, people like women and children. We have been reminded of this in recent sermon texts, including Jesus talking with and listening to the Samaritan woman who was of extremely low status, and Jesus insisting that the disciples “let the little children come to me, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus showed respect to these people who had little or no social status by engaging with them and listening to them.

How do you relate to the people in your life? Do you engage with them and listen to them, or do you ignore them or discount their views on things? I have become aware of how easy it is for me to convey disinterest in the views and perspectives of others, even as I “listen” to them. Love and respect are conveyed by active listening and require conscious effort to really pay attention. Showing respect for those around us is a critical component of love.

Lord, you listened to people who the world ignored, and conveyed to them a sense of respect and dignity. Help us to show respect to those who are close to us by listening and engaging with them honestly. Help us to love one another. Amen.

Dave Erickson-Pearson

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