A Lost Art?


It’s one of my favorite fast food restaurants.  If you’ve experienced the brilliance of THE chicken sandwich, this probably comes as no surprise.  However my love of Chick-fil-A has less to do with their chicken and more to do with their atmosphere.  Chick-fil-A is also known for their polite and respectful staff.  “My pleasure”… who says that and means it?  The Chick-fil-A staff do, and I can’t help but feel a bit better when I leave that place!

Respect.  It feels like a lost art.

“Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am” are heard much less frequently.  Challenging authority is an expected right.  Preceding someone’s name with a Mr., Mrs., Pastor, Professor, Brother, etc is now a rare occurrence.

“Respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.  They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” Hebrews 13:17

I think one of the greatest leadership challenges for today’s leaders is earning respect. In generations past, at least a certain level of respect was shown for positional authority.  If you were an elder or a superior in some way, showing respect was a cultural norm.

In today’s culture, respect has to be earned.  It’s rarely a given based on your position in the hierarchy.  In fact, our culture fights hierarchy at every turn.

I love these passages about respect for authority because there is more to them than most of us read at first glance.  First of all, it’s a reminder that God did design order.  He intended for there to be people in positions of leadership and authority.  He called up people to lead others and to lead generations in pursuit of His plans.

But before those of us with some authority get too excited, consider the qualifications that surround these statements:

“respect those who work hard among you” – There’s an expectation here that leaders work hard.  I interpret this as leading by example.  Leadership doesn’t disqualify us from being in the trenches.

“who admonish you” – To be respected as leaders, we need to be admonishing those we lead.  Admonish means to counsel, advise or caution.  That suggests to me that leaders need to be caring and concerned about others.  We should be speaking truth with love and grace.

“they keep watch over you as men who must give an account” – Again, the element of responsibility that leaders have for those they lead is huge.  Leaders, we can’t take lightly this issue of accountability.  We’re responsible for those we lead.  We’re responsible for leading and guiding with care, concern and love.

Perhaps if we as leaders better understood our side of the equation, respect wouldn’t be such a lost art in our culture.

Your thoughts?

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  • Kenny Silva October 21, 2010  

    The attitude of the younger generations is to challenge everything, especially authority. That's a product of our culture today. Where does it stop, though? Where do you draw the line between a healthy desire for understanding a leader's thought process and just being plain old insubordinate?

    I remember living and working in a world of positional authority (Air Force) and having to pay respect based on rank and position. In that culture, little was done by those leaders to 'earn' respect, because they were entitled to it under that system.

    I think there is a healthy balance, but I do believe that leaders need to fully understand that respect is hard-earned and not an entitlement based on position.

  • Lisa October 21, 2010  

    thank-you, Jenny, for this post! It is so true!

  • Jeff Goins November 4, 2010  

    Great thoughts on respect – a dying art in our culture. I agree. One of the things I love, however, about living in the South is that culturally, we’ve held onto this value much more than our neighbors to the north (where I grew up). It’s something that I don’t want to see go – so beneficial in character development (my own, and one day, my children’s).