Aretha Franklin wanted “just a little bit of it”: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I think you will agree that we’d all like a little bit of respect. In the song, Aretha demands, “give it to me,” but here’s the deal… it usually doesn’t work that way. Even though I do believe we should “give” respect to others, the reality is, few will “give” respect to you. Only those who are mature and not self-centered are secure enough to “give” respect. The bottom line is this, if we want respect from others, we usually have to earn it.
One of the greatest stories in the Bible about earning respect is from the life of Joseph. He was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, then taken away to Egypt at the age of seventeen. Over the next thirteen years, Joseph experienced an absolute rollercoaster ride of extreme ups and downs in his life. In his relationship with Pharaoh, he was in favor and then out of favor. One day he was in the palace and then the next day in prison. No one was “giving” Joseph respect. In his own quiet way however, he “gave” respect to others, and he remained faithful and steadfast, trusting God. Pharaoh was watching…for thirteen years, Pharaoh had observed Joseph. When Joseph turned thirty years old, here’s what Pharaoh had to say to him:
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, clearly no one else is as intelligent or wise as you are. You will be in charge of my court, and all my people will take orders from you. Only I, sitting on my throne, will have a rank higher than yours.” Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the entire land of Egypt.” (Genesis 41:39-41 NLT)
Incredible! Did you get that? Joseph had earned the respect of Pharaoh over thirteen years of probably some of the most difficult circumstances anyone could imagine. He went from being a slave to becoming “Vice Pharaoh”. Earning respect however, had a price.
Are you willing to do what it takes, over the time that it takes, to earn the respect of others? Earning respect is a matter of exhibiting consistent character. It may take a great deal of patience and discipline on your part, even sacrifice. When you finally earn someone’s respect however, you will also gain tremendous influence. Their respect for your example will flow over into their realm of influence.
Never underestimate the relational benefit of earning respect. Respect is what you earn from a wise investment of yourself in the lives of others. Be humble, be faithful and trust God with the results. Be intentional today about giving respect to others and you will discover that you will also earn their respect in the process.