‘A Minute with Matt’ is my weekly video blog about somebody I’ve met, and what I’ve learned from them about relationships. Recently I vlogged about meeting Daniel, who said that one of his life learnings about relationships is to be careful not to burn bridges, because you don’t know when you might need them again.
We burn bridges relationally the minute we begin to lose respect for one another. Unfortunately, loss of mutual respect happens all too frequently. When people disagree in politics, it can disintegrate into adversarial mudslinging. When people disagree at football matches, they can shout obscenities. When people disagree in religion, they can choose to criticise publicly, rather than keep it to themselves. When people disagree in business, they can proceed to gossip and slander one another. When people disagree in marriage, they can say and do things that they regret.
Mutual respect can be one of the hardest things to hang onto in the midst of disagreement. It is one of the key differentiators between disagreeing well and disagreeing badly. Its genesis is founded in unconditionally valuing the worth and dignity of others, regardless of who they are and how we differ.
When we disagree badly with someone, it’s too convenient to simply demonise them and say they are a bad person. Over the years of working to temper my own ability to disagree with people, I have tried to maintain my respect for them by trying to understand their positive intent. To appreciate that, generally speaking, they didn’t plan to cause pain and harm helps me value them.
One of the obstacles to mutual respect, is when we either think of ourselves more highly than we should, or when we don’t think of ourselves as highly as we should. A sober perspective of ourselves saves us from self-righteousness, and a sober perspective of others saves us from false humility. A diet of mutual respect allows us to disagree well.
Mutual respect leads us to genuinely try and understand other people, especially when we disagree. It maintains a high regard for other people, especially when opinions differ and we are in the midst of disagreement.