I have been thinking some about love and respect lately. And by "respect" I mean the definition: "a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements."
My great-grandmother Gertrude always used to say that you should marry someone you admire because you can always love someone you admire but you can't always admire someone you love.
While it is optimal to BOTH love and respect or admire those close to us, I have been thinking about which is more important in which relationships, love or admiration/respect.
My mom pointed out in our weekend together that she thinks that it is more important for our children and youth to respect us than love us. I think she is right in this point. Children can get mad at their parents or leaders. That is a natural aspect of a relationship where one has a stewardship to discipline and lead another. But if the child admires her parent or teacher she is more likely to listen to her counsel. She is also going to place more value on positive reinforcement.
Take Simon from American Idol for example. I am sure there are many of the contestants on that show who don't really "love" Simon. But I think most of them admire him and when HE gives a positive comment they know they have done really well.
So I think respect or admiration for our elders is paramount. I think if you have that respect the love follows naturally or at least is fairly easy to develop to some degree.
Looking at the parent to child relationship I would think the converse is true. It is far more important to love our children than to respect or admire them. I don't know that I really feel respect and admiration for my children. They are young and growing. They don't have many talents and abilities cultivated yet that I do not have. Maybe this will change as the years pass. But for now I feel sheer absolute unconquerable love for them.
I think in a parent to child relationship this is so important because love is not conditional. Admiration is. Perhaps someday my child will do something monumentally stupid. Perhaps they will choose to live a life unworthy of my respect or admiration. If my relationship with that child were based on respect, the relationship would wither and perhaps even die. But pure love is unaffected by such circumstances. It lives on even if it takes on the form of pain.
With relationships on an equal level I find I would rather be loved than respected. Don't get me wrong, it is nice to know someone admires me for some reason or another. But respect and admiration are conditional emotions. I would rather know my friend, sibling, cousin, etc... loves me no matter what. That is an emotion I can rely on. That is a relationship I can trust to hold me safe even when I screw up or feel insecure.
When I am feeling weak and insecure, it is to those who I know love me, LOVE me, LOVE ME, that I most quickly turn. It is to them that I can let down my defenses and show my vulnerability and know that I will not risk losing their affections even if I do lose some respect.
I am grateful to have parents I know love me like that. I am blessed to have married a man who both loves and respects me and whom I both love and respect. I hope to be the kind of mother who will be respected and admired by her children. I know I am a mother who loves her children like that. I hope my siblings and all my in laws know that I love each of them. And I think my parents know that I respect and admire them to the ends of the earth and love them no matter what.
Just some of my random thoughts on love and respect ...