I’m sitting here listening to my youngest child complain because he is last for playing the Xbox today. The horror of being last. We let our boys play Xbox only on the weekends. We’re mean parents like that. They don’t see us as wise and all knowing as we try to keep them from becoming zombies in front of the Xbox screen. And before I make myself sound too parent-perfect – I let them play on Monday and Tuesday this week, too, because the weather sucked and I couldn’t take their whining anymore.
Back to my complaining youngest child. He hates being last. I ask, “Why does it matter? By the end of the day, will you still get to say that you played the Xbox?” He flops his body, rolls his eyes, whines professionally as he answers, “But I want to play the Xbox now.”
Another reason on my long list of reasons why I don’t like the Xbox: whiny children who can’t think past their turn to play.
But, I remind myself that this Xbox is something that makes my children happy. They love it. Their eyes light up when they tell me about a game they won or a cool move they made. I really have no idea what they are talking about when they explain these things, (maybe I should be more well-informed), but I make sure I look up from what I’m doing, smile just as excitedly as them, and give them a high five for being masters of their Xbox universe.
I don’t understand their joy, but I can appreciate the excitement in their voices and the sparkle in their eyes. I can respect what is real to them.
I can remember how respect shows love to these boys I call mine.
I know when I had my eating disorder and began recovery that my family and friends didn’t understand my struggle. Not really. They knew the facts, the listened when I explained what it felt like to have ED pounding in my head, they hugged me, loved me, cried with me, prayed for me – even when they didn’t understand.
They didn’t understand my disease, but they appreciated the struggle I lived with and the lines I needed to draw for my recovery to happen. They respected what was real to me.
They realized how respect shows love when I needed it most.
We might not always understand what other people are going through. That’s okay. It’s impossible to understand what we have not personally experienced. But it is our job as human beings to respect each other, to be present, to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.
It is our job to love.
It is our responsibility to understand how respect shows love to every person we come into contact with. Every person deserves respect, and in turn, they deserve love. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with them, but we do have to respect them.
Because God called us to love.
I deeply dislike the Xbox because it doesn’t make sense to me; it seems like a waste of time. But I love my boys. I know it makes them happy. So we set guidelines, and I respect their enthusiasm for that which I don’t understand.
I know people didn’t understand why I was so excited the first time in recovery when I ate an actual hamburger, or why I counted it a victory when I stepped off the treadmill at 27 minutes instead of waiting to hit 30 minutes. But I knew they loved me because they respected and shared my joy over these personal victories.
That love pulled me forward in moments when defeats outnumbered the victories.
So when I see someone doing something I don’t understand, or crying over something that I think seems silly, or getting excited about something I find boring, or being angry over something that seems trivial to me – I stop and remember that I may not understand, but I can respect their emotion. And in doing so, I display how respect shows love to them.
I respect that which makes them different from me.
It doesn’t always work – sometimes I roll my eyes and get judg-y. But then I realize that I’m being a jerk and I need to step into that person’s shoes instead of being prideful of my own.
It’s a hard job to love. We are called to love so many different people with so many different opinions and ways of doing things. But we must remind ourselves that we are one of those people with a different opinion and a different way of doing things. There could be someone out there rolling their eyes at us.
That’s not a good feeling. And you know why just as well as I do. It’s not a good feeling because we feel disrespected. We don’t feel loved. We feel shamed, less than, stupid.
If someone had rolled their eyes at my fight for recovery, that disrespect of my struggle would have set me back profoundly. That disrespect would have placed shame on my reality. I would have felt worthless to keep fighting. Don’t ever discount how respect shows love to every single human on this planet.
So in response, love by respecting that which you don’t understand. We don’t know what someone is struggling with, but if our actions are motivated by respect for another, if that person feels love because of it, I know first hand what a difference that love can make.
Maybe our love will change someone’s life today. Walk around with that truth in your heart, and see how it changes your actions. I know it will change mine.