The Cambridge Dictionary defines the word respect as an "admiration felt or shown for someone or something that you believe has good ideas or qualities".
So, on paper, to respect someone, you have to feel a sense of admiration towards him and believe him to have good ideas or qualities. How basic that sounds. Anyone entering into marriage with true intentions would obviously choose someone they had admiration for, someone they believed to have good ideas or qualities. Otherwise, you would not have married that person. Even if you have to date all the way back to the first few weeks of dating, I would be sure to say that you believed him to have at least one good quality or good idea...although, more than likely, EVERYthing about him was a good quality and a good idea. You wanted to follow him anywhere in life, you believed in anywhere he'd take you. You hung on every word he told you..and it was love blinding you, you really believed in the good of him.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary discusses respect as a "state of being held in honor or esteem".
Now, upon defining the word honor, (used in Merriam-Webster's definition of respect) we find "a showing of usually merited respect". Interesting, that the word "usually" is included in the definition of a credible dictionary. That seemingly small, but all too important word speaks mountains. Regardless of your mate's actions (or inactions), honoring your spouse is foremost a biblical command, but also an unconditional one, meaning honor him whether he deserves it or not. Neither Merriam nor Webster can explain that one away. And in all honesty, whether you want to see it or not, your spouse is most likely merited for respect in at least some aspects of his life. (And as a bitter truth, none of us deserve honor in life when compared to Jesus, rather it is intended as a GIFT.)
When looking into the word esteem (the second word used to further define respect), the archaic definition lists two words: worth, value. Coming full circle, you, more than anybody else, know his worth and value. He is, if a good-intentioned man, overflowing with worth and value; God saw to it that we all are. So why not treat him like he is full of worth and value.
Think of other things we hold with worth and value? Most likely, the diamond on our wedding band, perhaps an expensive pair of shoes, a pretty purse, maybe a special antique locket from generations past, the persian rug in your great room. These may be special treasures to us, but what about your spouse? How much greater of a treasure is he! An actual living, breathing entity, a complex soul of thoughts and feelings and dreams. Something truly to be treasured, held in worth, valued, tenderly cared for. It seems backward that we should polish our diamond and watch the prong settings so carefully each month, but habitually toss our spouse aside.
A big way we can practice showing honor, respect and esteem, is slowing down our thoughts. It would take practice, but if you tried to wait just a few seconds before speaking, thinking over your thoughts first, you would be surprised to see what disrespect you could filter out. All too often, we speak so quickly, our words come out harsh and condescending. Thinking about your words, tone, or even body language, might make your spouse feel less threatened and more valued.
Try and keep a journal handy, and jot down something you value about your spouse, or something of worth he did, or even just something sweet about him. When you feel he is undeserving of your care, read one or two of those bullet points, and let your heart be open to his goodness.
And the most important tool, prayer for a humble heart.
Read more articles by Lisa Kartos or search for articles on the same topic or others.