Navigating Disrespect

Some days are hard and people are difficult. Dealing with those who don’t respect your voice can leave us despairing at times. When someone interrupts abruptly and dismisses us, the hurt is real. Pretending it didn’t happen won’t change the situation or equip us to handle similar situations better moving forward. Leaning into truths from scripture can help us process and move forward.

Your voice matters

Your voice matters, even if others don’t respect it. God has blessed each of us with a unique story. God loves each one of us and invites us to share our testimony of God’s grace in our lives. We have each been blessed with unique gifts to serve in God’s world. Don’t let the bad behavior of others keep you from living out the calling that God has placed on your life. You matter, and your voice is needed.

Hold your ground

Sometimes we have to become a broken record and repeat ourselves more often than we would like to get our point across. We may need to say the word "no" multiple times in different ways before the other person is willing to hear that you are unwilling to meet their desires. The persistent widow received justice from the judge because she pursued justice relentlessly (Luke 18:1-8). If you are dealing with a matter of personal conscience, stand firm.

Inventory the situation

Sometimes we get frustrated over a situation when what really bothers us is the behavior of someone. Your pain is real, but hurt feelings do not necessarily mean someone else did you an injustice. Do an inventory to see where the actual fault lies. Are there are ways that you may have misconstrued the situation or motivations? Is your concern valid? Do you have an open wound from an earlier situation that still needs healing? Do you have something you need to apologize for? When you have done an honest inventory, consider what your next step should be. 

Acknowledge your pain

Jesus gave instructions for dealing with a brother who sins against us in Matthew 18:15-20. We are to go to those who have hurt us and let them know we were hurt. We begin with not pretending everything is fine but opting for truthfulness about the pain we have experienced.

Seek reconciliation

While reconciliation may not always be possible, it is the high bar that God wants us to pursue whenever possible. There may be times when reconciliation is impossible when behavior has become unhealthy or abusive. We are image bearers of God and we are not called to submit to abuse. God longs for us to live in peace with one another and pray even for those who behave like enemies. If we can find healing and restoration of a relationship, we should pursue it.

Bring in support

If we don’t make progress when we address the person who hurt us, we are told by Jesus to bring in accountability and the support of our faith community (Matthew 18:15-20). God has blessed us with wise Christian counselors who can help us to navigate challenging situations. If the other party is still unwilling to acknowledge their fault or move toward reconciliation, a counselor can help to enlist healthy boundaries to keep you from experiencing further mistreatment. Our relationship may change and become more distant, but we can still care for one another with prayer. God walks with us even when we are in the presence of those who behave like enemies (Psalm 23) and we are never alone.

Seek out safe spaces

We learn where our voice is safe and where it is safer to keep quiet. Just because some people have been unkind does not mean everyone will be. Step away from relationships with those who continue to hurt you. Not every space will feel safe, but align yourself with those you can trust. Find your community where you are loved and cared for. Let yourself be vulnerable with those you trust. In those safe spaces, choose to live into who God has called you to be.

Take the next step

When we feel disrespected it can be challenging to move forward. The dismissive words can trigger feelings of inadequacy, leaving us paralyzed and struggling. It can be hard to know how to proceed, but God asks us just to take the next step of obedience. When you are overwhelmed just focus on the next faithful step. You don’t need to understand all of the big picture, just choose the next step.

About the author — Rev. Deb Koster

Deb Koster is a producer, writer, and speaker for Family Fire. She is also an Innkeeper at The Parsonage Inn in Grand Rapids, MI where she leads marriage retreat on weekends. After over 20 years as a Registered Nurse, she completed a Master of Divinity degree and was ordained as a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church. Deb and her husband Steven enjoy doing ministry together and they are the parents of three awesome young adults.

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