Recently I found my thinking was challenged when I was greatly disappointed in the actions of another. My feelings were hurt…and I overreacted emotionally. Rather than saying, “Gee wiz…that hurt my feelings and I feel let down and disappointed”…I wanted to say, ‘I’ve lost all respect for you.”

Part of me wanted to “hit back” emotionally. To let him feel the same sting of hurt that I felt. To pound home the point of how much his actions hurt.

However after sometime passed…I had to ask what does it really mean to say “I’ve lost all respect for you”? Is it just a one time only action (or lack thereof) that smashes a history of proven character over time? Unless we’re talking a serious moral breech…I don’t think so. I’m talking murder, molestation…theft…or something pretty big…yeah then I could see that. But the everyday actions of life…some good choices…some bad choices…probably not. That instead comes under the realm hurt or offence.

Perhaps letting the words rip “I’ve lost all respect for you” feels good in the moment…but in some respects it’s kind of lazy. I don’t have to think about what’s really bothering me. I don’t have to take the time or effort to explain what I’m feeling. And I don’t have to take the risk and expose myself and be vulnerable to someone who just hurt me. I don’t have to risk him saying…”I don’t care”…or worse yet, “Good, I’m glad I hurt your feelings…because I hate you!”

Depending on the person…that may not be a risk I want to take. But hopefully people I’m involved with are people who are emotionally safe.

When I realized that perhaps I had “overreacted” or was being overly critical…I started thinking about the word respect. Specifically holding up the magnifying glass of respect and seeing…did I really loose all respect? Or was something else going on?

What are some of the elements that make up the word RESPECT? Some that I came up with help define it or are elements are listed below. They are in no way definitive:

Responsible (Dependable)

Expectations (for oneself and others)

Steadfast (Persistent, Unwavering)

Purposeful (Focused, Determined)

Ethical (Knows he is accountable to God…and it effects/determines his actions and how and what he does it. Caring)

Character (Moral, Internal Consistency…he’s the same in all situations and with all people)

Truthful (Honest, no guile, real)

When I look at his actions…against the measuring stick of respect…in all honesty I can’t claim I’ve lost all respect. There might have been one or two of those elements that were breeched temporarily. But a history of proven character can’t just be thrown under the bus.

Have I “lost all respect”? No! Was I disappointed? Yes!

So that I might be consistent…in another situation when I hold up this same mirror of respect against the actions of another…I would say more of those elements were violated. In a way…I have lost respect. But even that instance is more accurately described as disappointment. A keen disappointment…but one more all encompassing over a period of time.

As New Years Eve approached I debated…should I send a letter? Should I reach out? , Say, “Hey…I know that you are a better person than that and I don’t want to “throw you away.” I knew exactly what I wanted to say. But at the end of the day I decided not to send the letter. Why? Because all other attempts to reach out were rebuffed. Even I…one who is slow on the uptake…gets it.

But at least I feel a release from the hurt of disappointment. My desire to send a letter told me that I was walking in forgiveness. My decision to not send a letter…was me walking in reality.

Can God work in the hearts and minds of people? Absolutely…He does everyday in my life.

I guess I’m walking away from these experiences with a challenge to examine more closely my feelings before emoting. Speak my mind…share my feelings…yes. But do so with more thought and intent behind those words. Which goes back to an earlier post…I need to live more intentionally. Intentional in my words, thoughts and actions.

Living Intentionally

This year I’ve become more aware of how our actions can impact others…both for good and bad. So much of what we do or say is unintentional…with nary a thought of how it will impact another person. But does that excuse it or make it better when we hurt someone accidentally?

Knowing how much my actions can impact someone…I need to choose to live my life more intentionally. To be more deliberate in my words and actions as I encounter and interact with people each day…friends, family and strangers too.

That may mean instead of getting in huff as the rattled cashier struggles with that register that just won’t cooperate…I now offer her a smile and a word of encouragement as she looks at the line that is growing exponentially. Or what about taking the time to listen to a frustrated friend…even when I think I don’t have the time or have no solution to offer? Instead I can offer a caring, listening ear and a prayer whispered in love. Or what about offering a warm smile to the person passing by who is carrying burdens that only God knows about. Not let them pass by as if they are invisible and don’t matter to another living soul. After all…they are a soul for whom Christ died.

I can’t begin to tell you the number of times…God has brought someone in my path, if only a brief moment….to offer a smile or words encouragement at some very low times in my life. That encounter at just the right time can make an impact far beyond that moment in time.

The question is…today will I choose to live intentionally? Will I choose to obey God? Will I choose to measure my words, actions and deeds according to God’s Word? “A new command I give unto you, love one another.”