Commandeering or Commanding Respect. One of These Works.

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

ncxkkxsDo you remember the Baltimore riots? A television photographer captured  a mother when she saw her son in the fray and yanked him out. She let him know in front of the world he was being a fool. Later, another son talked about her strength and how she would not let them get away with anything.

This mother commanded respect through tough love. She invested in her sons’ futures and they knew it. When it came time to save her son from committing a crime and perhaps ruining his life, he came with her though physically he was strong enough to run away. 

Think about this for a moment. Even if he was ignorant of illegality in his specific situation, he was well aware that those with authority were trying to stop it. He did not likely consider consequences because in his impulsivity, the law seemed insignificant. Apparently, he did not respect the police.

I know the reason for the riots, and am making no political or social statement here. This is simply observation of an adolescent. At some level he wanted to respect his mother or he would not have. No amount of warnings from the police were enough to make him stop.

If someone does not want to respect us, they will not.

There is a dichotomy sometimes between what respect we feel we deserve, and the respect we are given. This can be problematic for our mental health if we are trying to commandeer respect by demanding certain actions from other people. We can beg, blink puppy eyes, bark, play dead, and roll over repeatedly. However, if for whatever reason someone does not wish to show us respect, all we accomplish is behaving and feeling like a trained dog.

No one respects a human who acts like a dog.

By itself, being tough is not going to create an atmosphere of respect. If this is how we approach our family, students, employees, and fellow citizens we may be dismayed at the response. It is immature to demand absolute obedience, compliance, or agreement, especially if we are hypocritical.  This produces resentment, and perhaps rebellion. Those we hope will admire us may one day look on us with pity because of what we threw away.

Love alone does not nurture respect if by “love” we mean sweet-as-pie niceties while overlooking disrespect. Humans will take the path of least resistance, so if we “love” away (rescue from) consequences of poor behavior there is no change. Later, when life’s natural consequences force the issue, whoever we were trying to protect may conveniently blame us for not saving them again.

If someone does not want to respect us, they will not.  We have to give them a reason to want to.  Even then there is no guarantee, but their decision is not about us when our behavior, speech, and values command respect.

The difference is in combining the two words: tough and love.

Tough Love. That’s the answer. Just like the Baltimore mom with her son, tough love requires investment, time, relationship, and strength of character. Tough love teaches others to treat us with dignity, to look out for themselves, and to speak their minds with humility because we deal with them in those ways. If a person is disrespectful toward us, we follow-through with consistency.

Tough love proves our interest in other people by believing in them enough to draw boundaries. Our love looks like we actually care than seeming we would rather not be bothered.

“Show me you care” is often the platform on which people ask us to command respect. Tough love does not quit easily, and if we do not connect we may lose relationships altogether. By enforcing standards, tough love may make some persons angry. Still,  yielding to the alternative of commandeering respect will not earn it.

If someone does not want to respect us, they will not.


NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.


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