How do you catch respectful behavior? As I conducted research for the book A Nation Reclaims Respect, this was a major question. One thing is clear: It is not academic. Have you ever seen a course at any level of education about respect?

Respect is caught more than taught. The plague of sarcasm, disrespect, criticism, and judgementalism is tearing our nation—and our world—apart. This is not just a national issue. It is for families, companies, churches, and governments.

Jesus is the model for respect. He taught principles of behavior that have worked for 20 centuries. They can help anyone grow in respectful behavior. That is why I wrote the book.

Respect blossoms in one person at a time. It begins like a massive wake-up call: “We can’t go on this way.” Whether you are a sold-out follower of Jesus or a skeptic, this makes sense. So, how could I help you with a plan that works?

Respect is not simply head knowledge. It’s relational, not just academic. It’s more caught than taught. There is no class or curriculum. Respect begins with a person who already demonstrates respect. Then it is caught by others. It rubs off. Respectful people are contagious—for those who are receptive. Most people become receptive when life gets bad enough. And we are there right now—as a nation and as a world.

Respect is called “civility.” When you are respectful, you are a “civilian.” “Civilians” are people who are “civilized.” If you lose respect, you become less civilized: “uncivilized.” Civility is related to the concept of “polite.” “Polite” is the root word for politics. Imagine that!

America fought a Civil War. One of the “civil” issues was the disrespectful treatment of slaves. We won that war, yet some are still fighting the battle. Now we are battling a “second civil war.”  Most of us are not killing each other with guns. For most, this disruption is the focus of words, attitudes, and behaviors. The nation is at risk, just like it was in the 1860s. We are deeply disrupted, just as in the first Civil War.

If you are respectful and want to encourage others, what would you do? You could do what Jesus did. He told stories. Stories are powerful. You could tell stories from your own life. You could share lessons from your own experiences. You would be clear: You are still on a journey. You might share that you have not always been as respectful as you are today—and you expect that in a year from now, you will have grown more respectful. You want to become more respectful.

If you want others to catch respect, invite them to hang out with you. It is what Jesus did with the disciples. Go to places and help people. Let others watch and catch respect from you. Then, let them demonstrate it. Then debrief. In this process, people catch what can’t be simply taught

Live your life. Focus on respect. Invite others on the journey. Change the world, one person at a time. Save your nation. Improve the world.

Kent R. Hunter and Tracee J. Swank are church consultants and authors of A Nation Reclaims Respect, available on Amazon.com and ChurchDoctor.org.

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