It seems only appropriate to give a shout-out to Aretha Franklin’s signature anthem when addressing the topic of respect. Everyone knows it and you’re probably singing it right now “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!” (go on, I’m singing it too!) But did you know that that song was actually written by a man?
Otis Redding wrote “Respect” in 1965 two years before Aretha Franklin made it a chart topping single. The song is thought to be one of the best R&B songs in music history and was even considered a landmark for the feminist movement, but the song really began as one man’s plea for respect from the woman in his life.
So what does respect have to do with love, dating, and high school?
Girls and Guys: Equal, but Different
Sure, we know we have a lot in common with guys, but we need to recognize that girls and guys are different. We communicate differently, we look at things differently, and we like different things. Let’s consider how girls and guys differ on what’s most important to them.
The heart of every girl desires to know that she is loved. Ladies, I think we can all agree on that, we want to be loved. We want to know that we’re loved by our parents, our friends, we want to know that the cute guy likes us and if things go right eventually he’ll say “I love you.” And that’s good. That tells us something about God. God desires to be loved too. Women reflect this about God.
So do guys want the same thing?
I’ll let you in on this little secret: guys would rather know that they are respected than loved (Gasp). I was shocked when I found this out. For the most part, if a guy is in a relationship he knows that his lady loves him (women are good at loving so that makes sense) but he doesn’t always know his lady respects him. This is what Otis Reading was singing about. If he knew his lady respected him, then his heart would soar. Romantic right?
Again, this reveals to us something about God. God wants to be respected. Men reflect this about God.
Love and Respect in Scripture
In the Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul begins to explain this difference between guys and girls. This used to be one of the hardest Scripture verses for me to hear because I didn’t understand it. Now that I get it, the verse has become one of my favorites:
“As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her…”
Paul says to girls “be subordinate.” I see girls cringe at this and guys chuckle or high five their buddy. St. Paul is saying, “be respectful.” To be respectful means to honor, to recognize the worth, to show consideration for a person. When it is explained that way it starts to make sense.
Girls, we are commanded to respect because it is harder for us to do that. We were created to be loved, we get love, we want love, so love is easier for us. If God commanded us to love it wouldn’t make us better. He commanded us to respect because that would be a challenge to us, which would grow us.
To guys St. Paul said, you must love “even as Christ loved the Church.” Guys are commanded to love the same way that Jesus loved us: He laid down His life. It is more difficult for men to show love than to show respect, so men are commanded to love because that helps men grow in virtue and holiness. Isn’t God smart?
So what do we do with all this?
If men are called to love like Jesus loved–unconditionally–then ladies we are called to respect our brothers like we would respect and honor Jesus. Think about your relationships (I mean friendships too.) How do you treat your boyfriend, your guy friends, brothers, or any guy in your life?
- Do you treat him with respect?
- Do you honor him?
- Do you recognize his worth?
- Do you show him consideration?
- Do you tease him so that he feels belittled?
I promise you, if you treat the men in your life with more respect, you’ll watch their confidence grow. They’ll become more at ease with you. And they’ll be more willing to give you respect in return.
Finally, know that respect is an issue that most people struggle with in some way. But if we don’t understand respect before we are married or don’t try to get it when we start dating, we could be in for a world of hurt. For me and my new husband, we get it, and it means the world to both of us.