Everyone wants to be the kind of person that others look up to. No matter where you are in life, everyone wants to be the type of person who is respected by others.
But for those of you in your teen years, real respect can be a tough thing to receive from others, even from adults. If you’re a teen today, you’ve probably seen that it’s pretty common for people to disregard your thoughts and ideas simply because you haven’t been around that long. Is there any way to deal with this kind of attitude and gain real respect from others? Well, let’s drop in on the Apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy where Paul talks about this very thing.
Timothy was a young guy who was leading a church in a town called Ephesus when Paul wrote this letter to him. Timothy was also a guy who had to deal with the same lack of respect that you’ve probably had to deal with yourself…
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 NIV).
Now The Doctor is aware that people often have a tendency to disregard youths simply because, well, they’re youths. But as seen in the Scripture above, the Bible doesn’t accept that kind of attitude. Now, this is not to say that there won’t be any issues between your generation and other generations. After all, your clothes are different, your language is different, your hair is different, your music is different and sometimes people are just not going to understand you real well.
However the Bible’s message to you as a youth is this: you shouldn’t let anybody look down on you just because you are younger. In saying don’t let anyone look down on you, the Bible’s wording here indicates that this is something that you are responsible for. In other words, you are the person who is responsible for preventing others from looking down on you.
How can you do that? Well, you certainly can’t force other people to change their feelings towards you. However, it is possible to command respect from others and prevent them from looking down on you by your actions and the way you live your life.
Listen, if you want to gain the respect of others and prevent people from looking down on you just because you’re a youth, the Bible tells you exactly how to do it in the Scripture that’s quoted above. To gain the respect of others and prevent them from looking down on you, you simply need to pay attention to these five areas of your life:
This doesn’t only refer to not using bad language. “Speech” also refers to the things you talk about. For example, do you know people just can’t seem to ever stop complaining? It seems that everything that some people talk about consists of negativity, criticism and fault finding. Other people like to gossip, boast about themselves, or make a lot of sexually suggestive comments in their conversations with others. This type of speech certainly doesn’t set the kind of standard that honors God or gains respect from others.
If you find yourself falling into any of these categories, then the thing to do is to ask God to help you train yourself to think about things in a way that honors Him. Once that happens, you’ll find that the things that you talk about will become more God-honoring too. For example, instead of thinking about all the bad things that could happen to you, try thinking instead about the tremendous things that God has ahead for those who love Him.
You can also try concentrating your thoughts on these three things: the good things that God has done, the good things that God is doing, and the good things that God is going to do. Thinking and meditating on those things can help change your whole attitude and is sure to have a positive impact on the way you interact with others. Remember also what Ephesians 4:29 tells us: “Don’t use bad language. Say only what is good and helpful to those you are talking to, and what will give them a blessing.”
How do conduct your life? Are you a slacker? Do other people consider you to be unreliable? Are you known as a gossip? Do you have a reputation as a flirt? Do the police know you by your first name? Or are you known as an honorable young man or lady? Are you known as a person who stands by their word? Does your clothing, language and attitude reflect a lifestyle that honors God?
Try to make it your goal to keep up a good reputation with other people. It’s been said that one of the few things that money can’t buy is a good reputation and it’s true that one slip up or bad decision can ruin your good name in no time at all! Be sure to follow this good advice from 1 Peter 2:12: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (NIV).
Are you the kind of person who really shows love towards others? Perhaps you’ve never thought about this but there’s a difference between “love” and simply showing an outward display of affection. While showing outward affection towards others can be an indication of love, real love is best demonstrated by the things you do and the way you treat others. Listen, if someone needs help and you say, “I love you…” but do nothing else, then where’s the love?
If you greet someone but then exclude them from your group or treat them in a way that you would not like to be treated yourself, then where’s the love? The book of James explains it like this…
“If you have a friend who is in need of food and clothing, and you say to him, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat hearty,’ and then don’t give him clothes or food, what good does that do?” (James 2:15-16)
You see, real love involves action and not just outward displays of affection. Jesus Himself illustrated this when He said in John 15:13,“…the greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends” (emphasis added). For another example, take a look at the definition of love found in 1 Corinthians 13. Check out the number of action items within this list…
“Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
What you don’t read is “Love is all huggy-kissy face” or something like that. This is because real love is best demonstrated by actions which are followed by those outward displays of affection. Remember that serving and helping others is the best display of love and you will command the respect of others if you show real love to them by being there when they need you!
What is faith? Well, the dictionary tells us that faith is a belief in or confident attitude toward God, involving commitment to His will for one’s life (1). Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Faith isn’t a kind of pry bar that we can use to get God to do those things that we want Him to do for us. Faith is the confident belief that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He’ll do- no matter what the outward circumstances look like. As we’re told in Hebrews 11:6, “You can never please God without faith, without depending on him. Anyone who wants to come to God must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely look for him.”
Purity simply means doing the clean, right, honorable thing in any given situation. This is important because it’s often very easy to let other people (who may not be interested in doing what is clean, right or honorable) set the standards for us. You see, people sometimes allow themselves to do things that they are uncomfortable with simply because “everybody else is doing it.” This can be a tough thing to overcome because most people naturally like to fit in with others and the peer pressure to conform can sometimes feel overwhelming.
But think about this: anytime you interact with other people, one of two things is happening- you are influencing others or others are influencing you. Because of this it’s important that you, as a Christian, be the person who sets the example for others rather than just mindlessly going along with the crowd.
For example, one difference between people who set a God-honoring standard and others can clearly be seen from this Scripture…
“A person who is pure of heart sees goodness and purity in everything; but a person whose own heart is evil and untrusting finds evil in everything, for his dirty mind and rebellious heart color all he sees and hears. Such persons claim they know God, but from seeing the way they act, one knows they don’t” (Titus 1:15-16b).
When you are the one setting the standard, you are sure to gain the respect of other people even if they don’t necessarily like or agree with you.
So while gaining respect from others may not be an easy thing, it’s something that can be done. If you set a God-honoring standard for others in speech, life, love, faith and purity then respect from other people is sure to follow.