Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Make Others Respect Me?
“Sometimes when you start talking to an adult, it’s like talking to a wall.”—Paul.
“I hate it when grown-ups don’t trust you.”—Matt.
“My parents either ignore me or pretend to listen, but they don’t. You talk and talk and ask, ‘Did you hear me?’ and they answer, ‘Uh-huh.’ They really don’t know what you said.”—Paula.
RESPECT—why is it so hard to get others to treat you with just a little respect? You want to be heard, to be taken seriously. So when grown-ups—especially your parents—and peers ignore you, make light of your feelings, talk down to you, or put you in your place, it can really hurt.
It’s only natural to want to be esteemed by others. The Bible itself encourages us to “find favor and good insight in the eyes of God and of earthling man.” (Proverbs 3:4) And godly youths in Bible times did so. For instance, the young man named Timothy had the privilege of accompanying the apostle Paul on his missionary journeys. Why? He was “well reported on by the brothers,” having gained their respect. (Acts 16:1, 2) And there is Jesus himself, who as a youth “went on progressing in wisdom and in physical growth and in favor with God and men.”—Luke 2:52.
True, you are not Jesus. And gaining the respect of others is not easy when you’re young. For one thing, the Bible associates youth with ‘inexperience’ and unbridled energy; knowledge and wisdom come with age. (Proverbs 1:4; 20:29; Job 32:6, 7) Generally, then, people do not give youths the same respect they give adults. Unfair? Perhaps. But it is a fact of life you must deal with. Furthermore, many youths have made a bad name for themselves. As a result, some adults mistakenly think that all youths are “rebellious,” “irresponsible,” or “crazy.”
In some lands, culture, tradition, and rapid social changes have widened the gap between youths and adults. In Africa, for example, many youths have educational advantages their parents did not have. Furthermore, they may find themselves in constant conflict with their elders who are guided by the traditional norms. Older ones are often greatly irritated by what they perceive as disrespect or even rebellion on the part of youths.
Whatever your situation, it will take real initiative and hard work for you to win the respect of others. But it can be done.
Something to Be Earned
First, realize that respect is not something bestowed upon you simply because you want it, nor can you make someone respect you. Respect is something that you earn. In Bible times the man Job was highly respected in his community. “Young men stepped aside as soon as they saw me,” Job recalled, “and old men stood up to show me respect.” However, Job clearly earned such respect. “Everyone who saw me or heard of me had good things to say about what I had done,” Job explained. Yes, Job had a consistent record of upright conduct.—Job 29:7-17, Today’s English Version.
What kind of record have you established for yourself? Have you applied the counsel given Timothy? “Let no man ever look down on your youth,” Paul said. “On the contrary, become an example to the faithful ones in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness.” (1 Timothy 4:12) You too can become an example worthy of respect. Studying God’s Word can help you do so. The psalmist said: “How I do love your law! . . . More insight than all my teachers I have come to have, because your reminders are a concern to me. With more understanding than older men I behave, because I have observed your own orders.”—Psalm 119:97, 99, 100.
Fellow Christians are sure to respect you if you develop such spiritual insight. Note, however, that you must also ‘observe,’ or apply, the Bible’s counsel. An African youth named Charles took seriously the Bible’s command to “make disciples” and became a full-time evangelizer at the age of 16 and now serves at a branch office of the Watch Tower Society. (Matthew 28:19, 20) His faithful example in speaking has caused others to respect him and resulted in much personal joy. He says: “Life in this service is just fascinating. Working closely with godly men with vast experience has really built me up. It’s a joy beyond compare.”
Ways to Earn Respect
Another important way to earn respect is to become an example in conduct. Salome, a young African Witness, recalls of her youth: “I did not go along with the crowd. Rather, I fought hard to uphold Christian principles at all times. I tried to be serious-minded, polite, and respectful to others—even kids.” True, you may get mocked and teased for being different. (1 Peter 4:4) But as in Salome’s case, others will often begrudgingly respect you for it.
Note, too, that Salome made a point of being respectful to others. Respect begets respect. Romans 12:10 thus says: “In showing honor to one another take the lead.” Lying and bending the truth, cruel teasing, making other people the butt of jokes, bossing or bullying—these are not ways of treating others with honor. In the long run, they undermine what respect others have for you.
It is particularly important that we show honor and respect to those in positions of authority. (1 Peter 2:17) For example, a law enforcement officer once said: “Kids today seldom say, ‘Sir.’” How do you treat those in authority—teachers, police officers, school administrators? If you have a reputation for being respectful to authority figures, it is far more likely that such ones will treat you with a measure of respect.—Compare Matthew 7:2.
Respecting Older Ones
In certain cultures there are long-standing rules of etiquette that a youth is expected to follow. In Ghana, for instance, many older ones do not take kindly to a youth who talks to them with his hands in his pockets or who gestures to them with his left hand. Such social norms may seem strange to Westerners and old-fashioned even to some African youths, but they are not objectionable to Christians. Indeed, the Bible encourages us to avoid offending others needlessly.—2 Corinthians 6:3.
A common saying in Ghana is: “A child is supposed to unshell snails but not tortoises.” In other words, certain roles are expected to be filled by adults, not youths. This may very well seem unfair and demeaning to you. But one who bucks local culture by usurping adult authority will usually be thought of as impertinent. You will do far more to win others’ respect if you recognize your subordinate role and learn to cope with it.
The Bible says at Leviticus 19:32: “Before gray hair you should rise up, and you must show consideration for the person of an old man, and you must be in fear of your God. I am Jehovah.” When riding public transportation, do you willingly give up your seat for elderly ones? When conversing, are you careful to mind your language? Do you listen in a respectful way?
Gaining Respect for Your Beliefs
What, though, if others disrespect you because of your religious beliefs? For example, youths among Jehovah’s Witnesses are often pressured by teachers and peers to participate in patriotic ceremonies and religious activities that violate Bible principles. Unable to fathom why Witness youths take such courageous stands, others may view their beliefs with disdain. Witness youths may even be subjected to hostility.
Consider, though, how an African youth we’ll call Kwasi conducted himself. “I never dodged classes,” he explains, “and I supported activities that did not violate my conscience. More important, I made my stand as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses clear right from the outset.” Kwasi’s honesty, seriousness, and firm principles endeared him to teachers and students alike. He adds: “I had to explain my stand sometimes—once to the principal and his whole staff—but my views were always respected.”
Yes, conduct yourself in a manner that commands respect. Without forcing your beliefs on others, be “always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) Avoid behaving in any way that could cause ‘the word of God to be spoken of abusively.’ (Titus 2:5) That would include avoiding outlandish dress and grooming styles and adopting independent or rebellious attitudes.
Of course, the Bible encourages you to ‘rejoice in your youth,’ and no one expects you to act like a 50-year-old. (Ecclesiastes 11:9) But by being an example in your speech and conduct, you can win the respect and confidence of others.
[Picture on page 20]
Carrying the load of an older one is one sure way to gain respect