20 September 2007

Honor and respect

This morning, I got this little article in my inbox. It is from the authors of Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes, In You and Your Kids. I really liked this book's focus on honor, because some folks teach this really well and naturally in their parenting. Others of us... um... not so much, and this book is helpful. But it occurred to me many times while reading that the authors were placing too much emphasis on the distinction between honor and respect.
So read this and tell me what do you think?
Disclaimer: Let me state for the record that I realize it is spectacularly unfair to analyze just a few paragraphs of a book as representative of the entire book. Also, the authors pretty clearly advocate teaching children respect, also, so no accusations of chucking out the baby with the bath ,ok?

Do We Teach Honor or Respect?

When families think about honor, they often restrict their thinking to respectful behavior, being polite, courteous, and having good manners. This is a rather narrow understanding and is only a small portion of what honor actually is. Respectful behavior, although a subset of honor, is incomplete in and of itself. Susie learned manners at an early age. "What a nice girl," people would say. Susie learned acceptable behavior but as she grew older she rebelled against the rules, finding them empty and overly restrictive. Teaching respect is not enough.

Honor comes when you recognize a person's worth or value. Respect focuses on behavior, doing the appropriate thing, whereas honor comes from the heart. Respect acknowledges a person's position, while honor attaches worth to that person. Respect teaches manners and proper behavior in the presence of others. Honor teaches something deeper, an appreciation of that person. Respect can become an outward technique to make a family look good to others, but honor builds the hidden bonds that provide great strength and long-lasting unity. It's one thing to obey the crossing guard out of respect for his position. It's yet another to show honor to him because you know him as a friend.

Although we're making a contrast between respect and honor, don't assume that honor is good and respect is bad. Both have their place. When children are young, they learn respectful behavior, but as they grow older, they can develop a heart response of honor as well. It's good to teach respectful behavior but it's important that you not stop there. Honor adds a deeper dimension to relationships.

Honor deals with meanness in relationships. Honor does a job thoroughly and with a good attitude. Honor looks for what needs to be done before being asked. All children (and adults) need to learn honor. Teaching it makes a big difference in family life.

So what do you think? Splitting hairs? Or different enough to merit careful distinction?


Anonymous said...

While I'm not sure those are the words I would choose I do believe there is a distinction to be made like this.

Polite is not the same as empathy. You can be polite to people you consider less than yourself.

Sarah said...

D and I totally changed the way we parented because of this book -- primarily because of this concept. In our minds and experiences, there is a DRASTIC difference. We were both raised to be respectful and "nice." And as Muphinsmom said in the earlier comment, you can certainly extend politeness (or respect) to someone for whom you don't care at all.
However, in the most important relationships in our home at present -- two "little kids" and (presumably) two adults -- teaching our little ones to *honor* one another means going the extra mile because the other person *is* -- not because they've earned it, not because they'll do something in return, but because God created them. Honor has done far and above our best explanations in order to teach "The Golden Rule." As our children have sought to honor others (primarily each other and Daddy & Mommy), they've begun to "value" other people differently too -- instead of running up to Grandma with the "Whaddya get me??" we've seen the beginnings of them wanting to make Grandma feel special first. It's early, they've not yet "arrived" at it yet, but all we've seen so far has been enough for us to see a difference; if we can continue to affect their long-term motivations in relationships, it's well worth our personally making the distinctions between *acts* of respect and *attitudes* of honor.
Just our thoughts... :)
Hey, how ya feeling these days?

Jim and Amy Rennie said...

I actually agreed with the authors here . . .I think respect is given whether we actually like someone or not. I am respectful towards someone face to face, even if I go home and totally bash them behind their back. I always said to my high school classes that my only rule was respect. They didn't have to like me or each other, but they DID have to respect everyone in the learning environment. I wasn't their parent, so this was really as far as I could go . . .but I agree that honor extends deeper than respect. I can respect someone I don't care for, but if I honored them, I would need to care for them. I SHOULD, as a Christian, be loving to all people. I'm not. Maybe if I tried to honor them, rather than just "show respect," I would care more about them as individuals.

Hope that makes sense.

April said...

Thanks for your wisdom, you three. You have me thinking and returning to the book for more.

Jim and Amy Rennie said...


I have to laugh all the time that Annalivia named her doll Arnold. She reminds me of me. I still call the kids at school by funny names to crack them up . . .Gary, Sandy, etc. ;)