Respect vs. Fear

Proverbs 14:26–In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.

There are two meanings for fear: afraid and respect. I believe in every instance that the Bible tells us to fear God, it means respect Him. He is the perfect Father, and we can learn from the way He parents us.

What’s the difference between fear and respect? Fear, effective for a while, breeds one of two things: more fear or disrespect. A child who is afraid of a grown-up will only remain in that state until they realize the adult is not scary. Or, will reach a plateau where the adult no longer seems scary and the adult must react by intensifying their intimidation. Won’t this eventually reach a point where the violence escalates to physical harm, abuse, maybe even death? If you are to follow the pattern of parenting solely by fear-expecting your child to listen, respond, obey, be subservient at a moment’s notice-then in order to maintain that level as the child grows, the adult’s tactics must, by definition, escalate.

So fear equals reaction by child until child matures enough to realize the adult is a bully. Then adult gets scarier so child will react. Until child matures enough to realize that level of fear tactic is a bluff too-or they get beaten and stay afraid.

What about respect? Real, mutual respect breeds loyalty and deepening trust. Respect between adult and child arises from adult realizing that child is a person just as they are-with goals, intelligence, and the capability for understanding complex thoughts and desires. Instead of governing by suppressing child, a respectful adult governs by set guidelines, expecting a child to live to their highest achievable potential, and ruling with authority bred from mutual trust. A child who respects an adult-and the adult continues to treat child with respect and continues to earn child’s respect himself-will aim to please, aim to impress the adult in their life. When a rule is broken, the respectful parent will punish justly according to the severity of the crime. Not with physical abuse or mental or verbal, but with practical and applicable and repetitive patterns. Praise will abound for the positive things the respected and respectful child does. Negative behaviors will diminish because they understand the just consequences to their own actions. They are given the chance to use their brains to process the wrong they have done, to expect to be punished in the same reasonable way next time, and given the chance to demonstrate the correct behaviors.

Fear is temporary. Respect is lifelong.

The people in my life whom I fear, I avoid. I do not want to bond with them or draw near to them. When I am forced to be in their presence, I have a heightened sense of alarm the entire time. My flight instinct is at a maximum. I am uncomfortable. How pitiful for a child to have to live in that state continuously!

The people in my life whom I respect, I tend to want to spend time with. I want to learn from them. I want to hear their stories and experiences and glean what I can from them.

God, our perfect Father, is the best example of how to raise a child with respect. He left us specific instructions in His word, and when we mess up He doesn’t threaten or beat us into submission. He takes our hand and guides us to a better place. He teaches us His values, again, and reminds us of what is right and what is wrong. So, the effects of both fear and respect are lifelong. But which one would you rather affect in a child? I suppose you have the power to choose, but when you do remember that the life, the mental peace, the emotional stability of a child hangs in the balance. A whole next generation of fear-instillers or respect-instillers is watching every move the adults in their lives make, copying their behaviors, and mimicking their values.

(This little guy doesn’t have much to do with the message today, but he’s cute! Caterpillar @ Standing Stone State Park taken by me)

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