Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Respect: Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak, and Slow to Become Angry

The fourth quality on James Hunter's list of leadership qualities is respectfulness. This is an important quality to possess if you want to win over your followers. If you don't respect those you are leading, they will not follow for long. And it isn't easy to be respectful without first learning humility, which we just talked about in Humility: Being Authentic, Being You.

Let's look at how Hunter defines what respect is. Respect is treating others as important people- because they are.

Now hold up. You might be assuming I'm talking about sucking up or kissing up to people, or being soft on them, or being a wimpy leader, or something like that. I'm not. Instead, I'm saying to treat everyone like they are important. Because they are important. Having respect for those you lead means you'll treat the forklift driver like the president of the company, the students like the principal of the school, your teammates like the coach, your siblings like your grandparents, and so on. If you are respectful, then you will give those in lowly positions as much respect as you give those in high positions.

And isn't that at the core of Jesus' teachings? John 13:34 records Jesus to say, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." Doesn't that mean we should treat others like we would Christ? Doesn't that mean we should love them like we do Christ? Yes and yes! And I believe that's true respect. To treat the created like the Creator. To give the clay pots the same respect as the Potter. Now don't get all upset and think I'm saying to to worship people or anything like that! I'm just saying that if you want to possess true respect, you need to learn to not treat the Creator's creation like trash, because that itself is disrespecting the Creator. Instead, treat the Creator's creation in a way that shows respect to the Creator.

You've probably heard people say that they won't respect someone unless that person earns their respect. I think that is a faulty and selfish way to look at respect. I think every human deserves respect to some degree. Don't you? We're all created by God, and we're all human beings. I think every individual should be respected just for that. We are all pots of clay, and we are all formed by the same potter. He took the same amount of time and preparation to make each pot of clay. No human is naturally more important or special to God than another is. Yes, there are Christians and non-Christians. And there's an eternity of difference between the two. But I believe we owe each person, saved or unsaved, respect. I believe we should treat each individual as an important person because they are important to God. The lost are very important to God because "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:9). Jesus didn't come for the "clean", but the unclean (Luke 5:31). And if the lost were unimportant to God, then His last instruction to us would not have been to tell everyone in the world about Him so that they too might become saved (Matt. 28:19-20). That alone is enough reason to treat someone with respect.

But we also need to know how to treat someone with respect. In other words, what are some specific ways you can apply respect to your life? The answer is found in James 1:19, which says, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." I believe this verse shares the guiding principles of respect. So let's look at each of the three principles.

Everyone should be quick to listen. I think listening is one of the most over-looked qualities in leadership. Think back to the best teachers, coaches, and mentors you've ever had. Do you remember them being great listeners? When they listened to you, did they give you their undivided attention? Did they look you in the eye? Did they let you finish without cutting in to say something? Chances are that they probably did all of these things, and chances are that they earned your respect because they listened to you. When you listen intently to someone, you're telling them they are important. You're telling them that they are worth your time. If you become a good listener (giving undivided attention, making eye contact, and closing your mouth), it'll be much easier for your followers to respect you.

Everyone should be slow to speak. This means to give thought to what you say before you say it. If you want be smart, intelligent, and wise, don't speak without thinking. Evaluate what you say before you say it. Being slow to speak also means that you shouldn't speak too quickly after the other person finishes. If you start speaking as soon as the other person finishes, that means you've probably only been thinking about what you were going to say and you weren't listening to what the other person was saying. That shows disrespect, not respect. To show respect by being slow to speak, you need to evaluate what you're about to say and also allow a few seconds to pass before offering your thoughts or opinions to show that you were listening. Those few seconds are crucial because you need that time to evaluate your thoughts and to evaluate what the other person just said.

Everyone should be slow to become angry. This one should be easy to understand. It means to not let your anger get the best of you. It isn't exactly fitting for a leader to throw a temper tantrum, so control your anger and your emotions. Proverbs 12:16 says, "Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult." You'll never earn someone's respect if you constantly blow up in their face. Learn to be patient and to have self-control (sound familiar? Patience: The First Quality of Agape Love). Be patient with people and you will earn their respect.

And there you have it. You now have the tools to become a respected servant leader. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Show your followers that they are important to you. Treat others like important people, because they are imporant.

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