Building a better future: How to earn the respect of others
We all desire to feel valued, appreciated, and respected. But being respected doesn’t come automatically. Respect is something we earn by the way we talk and the way we act toward others. And God wants you to work on earning the respect of others because the world needs more people who have credibility and who are worthy of respect. In this message, Pastor Marty looks at four common causes of conflict in your life and gives you five ways to earn the respect of others as modeled by Nehemiah.
Something To Talk About:
- Empathize with the feelings of others: If you respect the feelings of other people, they’re going to respect you. What you sow, you will reap. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you want people to respect you, you must respect their feelings. This is especially true when people are hurting or when people are grieving or when people feel there’s been an injustice against them, when people are fearful, or when people are upset. People want to know that you understand their pain, you understand what they’re going through. This is the first thing that Nehemiah did right when he was faced with conflict, he empathized with the feeling of the people who were complaining and criticizing and having conflict. In verse 6 it says this: “Nehemiah 5:6-7 says, “When I heard their complaints, I was very angry. After thinking it over, I spoke out against these nobles and officials. I told them, “You are hurting your own relatives by charging interest when they borrow money!” Then I called a public meeting to deal with the problem.” He was deeply disturbed, he was angry by their indifference to human needs. If you want to be respected, be like Nehemiah, and empathize with people’s feelings. You don’t have to always agree with their conclusions, but empathize, listen empathetically to their feelings and you’ll be respected.
- Pause and think before you speak up: If you speak before you think you’re not going to be respected. In Nehemiah 5:7, Nehemiah takes time to think it over. In the NIV, it says, “I pondered the charges in my mind.” He was considering, he was meditating, he was thinking about his response. He didn’t just go off halfcocked and start speaking: He thought before he spoke. He put his mind in gear before he put his mouth in gear. Proverbs 15:28 says this: “The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words.” James 1:19-20 reminds us to be “…quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” If you want people to respect you, you got to watch your words. Nehemiah did that. He identified with the emotions that people were feeling, but then he thought about it before he spoke up about it.
- Try to resolve conflicts privately first: Nehemiah didn’t start with a public protest when he saw all this injustice going on, he didn’t start with the boycott. What he starts with first is he tries personal reasoning. He tries to personally build a bridge with the offenders who were exploiting the poor and taking advantage of the poor’s misfortune. He tries to reason with them. He treats them, even his enemies, with dignity, even though he’s not happy with them at all. When you have a conflict with somebody, don’t go gossip about it, don’t go talk to everybody else about it. Go to that person directly and deal with it one-on-one and see if you can deal with it before it has to become a public issue.
- Appeal to the best in people: If you want to be respected, bring out the best in others, not the worst in others. You never lift people up to a higher level by putting them down. This is what Nehemiah did in his appeal. He appealed to bring out the best in those who are actually exploiting the poor and being unjust and using everybody else’s misfortune for their personal profit. (Read Nehemiah 5:8-13) He’s appealing to the good side in them, appealing to the best in them. And the noble said, “…We will give back everything and demand nothing more from the people.” That happened because they respected Nehemiah. Proverbs 11:27 says, “if you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!”
- Do everything with generosity and humility: Nehemiah ends chapter 5 by giving a personal testimony. He says, “For the entire twelve years that I was governor of Judah—from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of the reign of King Artaxerxes—neither I nor my officials drew on our official food allowance.” (5:14). Basically Nehemiah rejected his entitlements which others did not. “The former governors, in contrast, had laid heavy burdens on the people, demanding a daily ration of food and wine, besides forty pieces of silver. Even their assistants took advantage of the people. But because I feared God, I did not act that way.” (5:15) Now this personal testimony of Nehemiah has a lot to teach us about humility and generosity as secrets of earning the respect of others. In addition, he didn’t use his position or power to enrich himself. Nehemiah personally paid for many of the costs of his leadership position. He didn’t tax people for that, he paid for it himself, including feeding all of his team every day all those 12 years. Psalm 112:9 says this: They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.
- The causes of conflict are (1) when any basic need goes unmet, (2) when we feel we’re falling behind, (3) when leaders are insensitive to our pain, and (4), when we feel powerless to change our situation. How would you approach solving any of these conflicts in your community?
- What effect do you see in people when you show kindness to them when they are hurting?
- How important is listening when it comes to understanding people’s feelings?
- Was there ever a time when you used righteous anger to change a situation for the better? How can we become better listeners and empathize with those who are in pain?
- What habits do you need to change or adopt to become more considerate of other people’s feelings and not just their words?
- Nehemiah experienced a positive outcome because he paused and thought before he acted. Why is it so hard for us to do the same thing, especially on social media? Give an example of a time that you paused and thought before you spoke, and what was the outcome?
- Why do you think Jesus tells us, in Matthew 18, to first try to resolve conflicts with others privately? Why do we tend to gossip with others before reaching out directly and privately to the ones who have offended us? How would you feel if someone with whom you had a conflict talked to everyone before talking to you about it?
- Why is appealing to the best in people a better way to help resolve conflicts and affect change?
- Why do people think they are entitled to respect rather than earning it through humility and generosity?
- For what do you want to be remembered?
- What did you hear? What point in this message was most impactful for you?
Take one thing home with you:
Knowing that we are all made in the image of God should prompt us to see value in others. God calls us to love one another. Seeing value in everyone is not the same as agreeing or being best friends with everyone. Instead, it means showing all people the love of Christ through what we do and how we treat them.
Each person brings value to the world and to God’s kingdom. We all have a purpose, and we should treat all people mindfully and with great respect because God has deemed them of value.