Monday, July 4, 2016

Celebrate Respect, Not Fear

As we celebrate Independence Day in the midst of election season, our country is again examining how it is viewed through the rest of the world. Most of us want the US to be respected. Some view respect through the lens of fear. In fact, I saw a comment online that we need a leader that will lead other countries to be terrified of us.

Yet fear is not productive in building relationships or moving forward. I guess some people don't care about that. But let's remember the purpose of fear--its function is to keep us alive when threatened. The classic responses are to fight or flee. How is that helpful long-term or in relationships? It's not. It's highly destructive. Fear is very useful when a bear is coming at you, but that will also mean you won't be an ally of that bear unless your whole world is built upon power and ensuring you're on top. That's a precarious position.

I hear people essentially equate fear and respect in kids towards adults. We must remember that what we often see as respect for adults or other isn't actually respect. It's fear, so a child stays quiet. There is not necessarily an attitude of respect. Behavioral respect without attitudinal respect is quite problematic.

Ultimately, fear-based relationships are immature, unskilled power plays. When we are unable to adequately express ourselves and our emotions and do not have the skills to regulate those emotions effectively, we default to primal-based actions of aggression.

Think of the toddler who doesn't get their way. They can't regulate and don't know what to do but yell and hit, which doesn't lead to anything good. As we grow and mature, hopefully we learn skills of emotional expression and regulation as well as effective behavioral responses that are beneficial for us and for other. That's what leads to positive relationships and mutual respect. Aggression and fear leads to mutually assured destruction.

Which would you rather have?

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