Change is hard. Change brings unfamiliarity. Change can be external to us while processed internally. Change can bring up feelings we never knew we had. Change can send us into a dark place or it can open the door to new opportunities. Change can make us angry or it can bring a sense of relief. Yes, change can be hard.
Change will happen. It may be a simple course correction to which we can adapt. Or it can disrupt everything we thought we understood about ourselves or others and leave us questioning what we believe and trust to be true. What matters most is how we respond to a disruption that is outside of our reality, especially if the change involves a person we care about. How do we respect a change that we don’t understand or that we disagree with based on our personal bias and assumptions?
Respect. That’s a good place to start. Respect has everything to do with relationship. Respect demonstrates care, concern, and compassion for another human being. Respect says that even if I disagree with you, you have value and worth in the eyes of God and in my life.
Respect: to show regard or consideration for; proper acceptance or courtesy; courteous regard for people’s feelings; to recognize the worth of a person or thing; politeness and care shown toward someone or something that is considered important; the feeling you show when you accept that different customs and cultures are different from your own and behave toward them in a way that would not cause offense.A compilation of various definitions
How do we respect change that is outside of our comfort zone or that challenges our belief? We do it by seeing the person as someone worthy of our respect and kindness. This is especially true for those who are uncomfortable with transgender transitions or declarations of name and pronoun change. I’m a firm believer that we all have a right to our opinion and beliefs. We all have the right to our interpretation of God’s word. We all have the right to the space needed to process the change and to accept or deny the change. What we don’t have a right to do is to disrespect someone for the beliefs that define who they are in society. Nor do we have a right to question one’s personal relationship with God or their faith because they are part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Pounding our fists and flashing the Bible does nothing to build personal relationships and open the door to conversations about faith. Respecting one another must be the first step. Be polite. Use the pronoun and name someone is asking you to use, even if you disagree. Look them in the eye with the heart of Jesus who extended respect and love to everyone he encountered. Ask them to share their story and listen without comment. See the person. They are so much more than a name, an outfit, or a gender. They are God’s creation living life the best way they can—just like all of us.
We are not called to judge one another. We are told to share the good news of a loving father who forgives and transforms lives. We are not called to condemn or discard one another. Time and time again, Jesus met the outcast and first befriended them, and then shared who he was and changed their spiritual and earthly lives. He did it by respecting the person and gently telling them that he saw the authentic person and could redeem their lives. Always, he left the decision to have a relationship with him to their discretion. I believe we are called to share that same love and respect with people who are not like us, to let God guide the relationship, and to let God and the other person enter into their own relationship—even if it isn’t what we thought it would look like in our world.
This may sound like rubbish talk to you. It may sound like I am saying your beliefs don’t matter. You may be completely uncomfortable with the notion of respecting and using the pronouns and names that someone you have known all your life is asking you to use. You may want to dig your heels in and refuse to use the pronoun that does not match the biological designation given at birth. I get that.
Think of respect this way. Maybe you just got married and you want everyone to use your new name but people forget. You give them grace but expect them to use your new name. Maybe you have a name that is difficult for some to pronounce and yet you keep educating people in the correct pronunciation. Maybe you have a nickname you prefer people call you because you detest the name you were given at birth. Maybe you are a woman who can’t stand skirts and so you wear pants and don’t care if someone says it isn’t biblical. Maybe you are a man who likes your hair long and you don’t care if it is the norm. We all want respect for our names, our style, and the decisions we make, even when others don’t understand or agree with those beliefs and determinations. Can’t we build a relationship by just offering that same respect to someone who is asking you to call them by the name they prefer??
Respect the change. Respect the person. Respect their life journey because it hasn’t been easy. Respect that God loves them and so should we. Respect them first that they may respect you too. Respect doesn’t mean you must alter your beliefs; however, we can never have a conversation about out differences if we don’t start with a willingness to respect one another where we are.