Respect is more crucial to a relationship than love. Respect shown regularly eventually leads to love. Love is a loaded word and many disagree on the actual definition of what love is. Respect is an easier foundation to start building 'love' upon. In the graph above respect is circled by the traits of honesty, support, consideration, trust, accountability and safety. If 70 percent of these criteria are not met in a relationship, not only is it unhealthy, but it's not a respecting, equality minded relationship. If less than 50 percent is being met there are clear boundaries that need to be implemented. There is a chance the relationship can be grown into something healthier and beautiful over time but boundaries to garner respect are crucial. If the relationship consistently falls short of 40 percent of the traits and lower- it may be time to walk away. Those are serious indicators that there is some level of abuse or bullying.
If there is no trust, there is no ability to build a relationship. Even if both people LIKE the other. Without trust there is no capability to foster communication, vulnerability, understanding and respect. Trust involves accepting another's words and giving the benefit of the doubt. If words are consistently undermined, labelled dramatic or any other descriptor, or consistently criticized - the relationship isn't a relationship. There is no room for growth. This is where understanding personality types come in. Based upon valid research, the 16 varied cognitive personality responses to situations can show that expression is varied and so are values (see INFJ side label.) None of them are wrong. Just different. The sooner we realize our personalities and get ourselves to a healthy state, the sooner we can respect other's within their persona. To call someone a sensationalist or over dramatic is not a trustworthy or respectful action. That person's way of being is THEIRS. Even if they are dramatic- that is whom they are- their life is their drama and it's not up for judgement. Some personalities are cool and collected and some are energetic and loud. Both have issues and benefits.
If the approach to cooperation means "do it my way or come around to my way of thinking" respect is being missed. Cooperation actually involves the lack of expectation on another. Treating a human being as equal to one's own BEING. Asking for help or respect but not expecting a certain behaviour within the many ways these traits can be actioned upon. Accepting change in another because we all change, we all grow and we all become. To expect more or less is to leave out respect.
Honesty really is such a lonely word. Honesty of expression, vulnerability, words, and the human experience. This is the one trait I get the most flack for and judgement. There are some people, due to wiring, that are inherently honest, and the world would rather deal with people who people please, are political in response, and hide behind what is perceived as 'gentleness' or 'kindness.' In the relationships closest to us, honesty should be one of the key components of respect. Communication should be open, frank and truthful. A lot of bull crap gets out of the way by doing this. It takes bravery to be honest but that bravery is paid back in full with the people that will hold you as their own. My husband and I owe our relationship success to humour, communication and honesty. We have withheld none of our feelings, discussions or expressions with each other. Sometimes it still takes bravery to show our vulnerability to one another but it is always worth it. So many spend their lives in hiding. Hiding anger. Hiding fear. Hiding NORMAL human expression and emotion. And for what? We are not little gods. Nor are we supposed to be political examples unless we are trying to get somewhere. The interesting thing is that people who do this are trying to garner more support and followers. The ironic fact is that they DO get more followers and seem to gather support. But that support is fickle and comes with expectations. It's not true respect. Nor is it true support that has an element of depth. I guess if one wants to swim in the shallow ends of life- then that choice is one to make.
Accountability is admitting mistakes when wrong. It also accepts responsibility for attitudes, values and behaviours. If you are a person who has the value of patience and you place that value on another person and they fall short of it- you have a choice. You can judge them for not meeting your value or you can take responsibility that your value may not work exactly for each person. You can take responsibility that your behaviours are not going to be reflected in everyone else. You can still value patience in your life but don't expect each person you love to mirror that level of patience back to you. Accept that you are only responsible for your behaviours, ideals and attitudes. Placing your inner process on someone else is unfair to both parties.
Finally, safety is a component of respect ( and thus love) that is often undervalued. In our extraverted culture we like to believe that the needs of the group outweigh the individual. It is often a large travesty for someone to walk away from a relationship. We judge those that seem to cut themselves out from family or friends. Yet, we value love don't we? Safety involves refusing to intimidate or manipulate others. It involves respecting another's space. That means if someone is not a fan of hugs, and you know this fact, stop pressing your body upon theirs. It means if someone values a lot of down time - allow them their process. Safety of space involves allowing another to believe the way they believe in their own homes and their own body. It means refraining from threats of hell or eternal damnation in the name of any god or religion. If one puts their god before safety, love and respect it means they are putting themselves up AS god or worshipping a god that obviously does not stem from love, safety and respect.
Safety involves expressing oneself non violently. Now, this does not mean that one can not be what they are naturally...loud, quiet, dramatic, dull...expression of self is allowed. What this does mean lack of violence in any form. Hitting or physical abuse is obviously out. But so are behaviours that could be confused as 'kindness.' Behaviours like gas lighting. Gas lighting is a from of abuse which falls under violence. It involves dismantling a person's expression, values and eroding the victim's self esteem slowly. Most people will just laugh this behaviour off if they hear the stories but this minimizing of your own expression and story is serious. Because I have been a victim of gas lighting I can tell you how it feels. There is the sense of extreme alienation and of self doubt. You are made to look like the neurotic one in a group setting- you feel smothered. This causes a constant second guessing of everything you are (memories, behaviours, personality) and a feeling that one is never good enough. Yet, when away from the people who are manipulating the situation, everything returns to normal and you know your value. I don't suffer from low self esteem normally- I have had my moments but it's not a chronic condition for me. While I DO challenge myself - I am not prone to a victim stance in life...but in those situations suddenly I am there. It's not a normal behavioural circumstance. Out of those places I am who I am and I am not a bad person. You are NOT crazy and you are a worthy human being. Most of the tactics involved are countering, blocking, diverting and trivializing your experience. (CLICK HERE)
There is a lot of stigma around abuse. In Fostership training I realized that even obvious physical abuse when a child is obviously being used as a punching bag, is hard to put a stop to. Also many adults still turn the other way or doubt the child's obvious story. Abuse stories have a long way to go in our culture for legitimacy and safety. Even in solid evidence cases. For someone to speak out about Gaslighting abuse is almost a no no. Already the person has been through painful moments of doubt and indignity and now the people who they run to for support are doubting their stories. It's tricky.
People seem to only understand from their own levels of perception. If perception is underdeveloped so is understanding. Even if a person consistently cried wolf and WAS lying about being abused- why would people silently or vocally judge them? Obviously, that is also a call for clear help. I had one such person in my life and I directed that person to the proper professional care. Unfortunately, sometimes "professional" care is not good or even helpful but in this person's case it was. This person deserved help and there were reasons why they were crying wolf. In my counselling experience, I have found that it is important to always believe the best in people, to give health and healing, and if one can not be helped, send them to someone who CAN help them. Doubting another's experience, however twisted, help's no one and only perpetuates judgement, cruelty, and an erosion of BEING. Every person deserves a chance at redemption, healing and love. Of course boundaries are a part of this. The person who cried wolf all the time is not in my life now, but I did set them up with the best chance I could give them while still respecting myself. In most cases however, there is truth to someone whom has come out to speak of abuse and bullying. It takes great bravery to do this, because as much as our culture says we support the wounded, people prefer the dirty laundry of others to remain unseen.
Our culture also puts so much value on family of blood. Religion does this especially. Just because someone is family blood does not mean they are family of the heart. Sometimes the deepest heartaches are found inside a family. This hurts more because of the illusion that it is supposed to be a safe haven. Don't compromise your soul and allow loyalty to become slavery. That is not family. That is not love."Nothing hurts a good soul and a kind heart more than living amongst those who do not understand it."- Ali Ibn Abi Talib. Cutting people out doesn't mean there is hate, it only means there is respect and love for the essence of a person. It means the one who is implementing boundaries is giving themselves respect to give respect later. We can not give what is not in us first.
There is also a lot of stigma in our culture, especially the christian culture where I live, about leaving a relationship. For some reason there is this mistaken belief that one is only loving if one stays put in obviously unhealthy relationships. Whether it's a marriage, friendship or family relationship- the person who is judged the most is the person who chooses to walk away. Interesting. The beauty of it is if you allow people to walk out of your life if you are not loving them the way they need to be- there is also respect and freedom in that action. It goes both ways. The other judgement is that obviously this person wasn't following God or the true ways of god by showing the outward fruits of the spirit. You know- kindness, gentleness, love, joy, peace, forbearance, faithfulness and self control. I have witnessed unhealthy people whom for self control equals a political face. Kindness equals a placid smile which covers up seething inside. Gossip is often guised as 'prayer requests.' Gentleness becomes a soft voice and those that have naturally loud voices are judged. When in fact gentleness is simply a caring approach. Love is given with strings attached- strings of expectations and conformity of behaviour. Is that really love in all of it's nitty gritty? If Jesus is held up as the example of love in this culture- hypocritical behaviour in this regard should have the tables turned more often. Peace is often an excuse for oppression of expression instead of freedom from war and violence. Forbearance and self control are often mistakenly used in a hierarchal, patriarchal circumstance to harness in those that may be wayward. Most of all though, these 'markers' are used to compare, to judge, to 'hold into accountability' or to take away freedoms. Abuse and bullying are strong words, which should be weighted seriously, but the last thing a victim needs is more criticism and doubt.
I want to beg those who are followers of the 'fruits of the spirit' to go easy on yourselves. It is fantastic that you want to be a better human being for yourself and others, but please do not strive for perfection. Nor exude a fake exterior to meet a biblical standard. Be real. Love yourself as you are- as a loving God would love you if that is what you believe in. In that, you will be able to love your neighbour as yourself because you will already have accepted the messy mistakes in yourself, thus you are more able to forgive them in others.
Giving up on certain activities or unhealthy relationships is sometimes the bravest thing to do. Walking away from circumstances that involve an erosion of self esteem is when one has learned their worth. "When you learn how much you are worth, you'll stop giving people discounts."- Unknown.
Own your experiences. Life is both short and long. Everyone deserves healthy relationships, a healthy self, and respect. It's ok to ask for respect in all of it's traits and to walk away after a fair chance when it is not given. Live your own life and stop judging others. Within that though, you are allowed to judge what is damaging or doesn't work for you. Allow your own process.
"I know there is a lot of shame tied up in ending a relationship, and no one wants to be the bad guy. But we all owe it to each other to not participate in relationships where anyone’s self esteem is being degraded. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is, and it doesn’t matter whether or not it is fair. There are bigger things at stake here. Let’s not punish each other for doing the things we need to do to be healthy. "- Shea Emma Fett
Post Edit: I was asked if I take issue with Christianity due to the few that have given it a bad name in our lives...The short answer- no. I take issue with many aspects of the doctrines of christianity- which would take A LOT of time and dialogue to get into and frankly should only be dialogued within safe places and relationships that have respect as understanding...because individually I LOVE some Christians in my life and I realize that their beliefs are a part of them. I don't begrudge that. But I DO challenge some hypocrisy of doctrine at times because it is rarely talked about...because I was once part of the whole culture and I know that there is not really much of a challenge as the preaching is often to one's own crowd within one's own doctrine. I feel in instances where it is applicable- like in abuse or in the very public fruits of the spirit mantras- it is important to bring it up. It was applicable in this post and part of my story thus why it appears here.