The Deep Connection Between Story and Respect
August 2, 2017

Want to know how I can tell if you have respect for someone? I listen to the words and tone you use when you tell a story about them. Respect comes to life in relationships and story.

Story and respect are soulmates.

Leona Elenora Renatta Richter Fischer

It was a long name, given by her German parents, who also gave her Jesus. Whom she, in turn, gave me. My grandmother was my spiritual mentor. She poured Jesus into me for decades. And she embodied FiveTwo’s value “Respect for all,” perhaps because she remembered her past. From a poor family in The Grove,Texas, she and Papa were sharecroppers early in marriage, eventually working their way up to delivering Lone Star beer and packing boxes of Hefty trash bags on an assembly line. When I lived with them my freshman summer of college, I made more money than both combined while interning at Texas Instruments basically doing nothing.

Yet theirs was never a regretful or bitter story. Instead, thankfulness and respect poured from them. Whether the waitress they met for the first time or the friend of mine I invited for Christmas dinner, all were welcome. All were worthy of belonging simply because all had a story.

Which was one of Grandma’s hallmarks: she wanted to know your story. Really know. She’d ask questions about your family, your loves, your career. She listened now and later would remember the details and pray for the struggles.

No one had ever taught her knowing someone’s story communicated great respect for a person. She never openly said that to me. But that’s what happened when she was in the room. Respect flowed from her as she listened to your narrative.

What’s Your Story?

When I ask about your story and take your story to heart, connection happens. We now have shared history. I understand why you don’t like pastors since that one wouldn’t do your dad’s funeral. I gain insight into why you love vacations since you never had one growing up. I appreciate your addiction to pizza and abhorrence of Chianti. That Italian aunt really did a number on you.

Getting to know your story allows me to understand why you are you. And when I allow your story to become part of my story, why you are you becomes part of why I am me. My life is richer, and your heart, fuller. Listening to story demonstrates respect and creates respect.

Are you able to respect someone if you don’t know their story? I would hope so. Respect for someone shouldn’t depend on their story; it should flow from their person. Specifically from the fact they are a person. They are one of the crown creations of the Creator. They are worthy of our ears.

But if you want to create respect and start off well, then get to know their story.

It’s the sacramental way.

by Bill Woolsey, Executive Director, FiveTwo Network


  • Scott Seidler

    I'm working on a sermon series for the Fall, one of which sermons will focus on the topic, the word, "salvation". Your insight reminds me that if I am going to serve God by bringing his saving to another human, I need to listen well about what exactly they need "saving" from. Sin shows itself in various ways and that sin comes out uniquely in everyone's' story of life and experience. The arrogance that I bring some generalized salvation, a one-size-fits-all kind of message is abominable to God. While God's way of salvation is universal, a human's experience and heart cry for it is particular. I look forward to referencing this article in the run-up to the message in September. Thanks, Bill.

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    • FiveTwo Network

      Thank you for these kind words Scott. As you develop your sermon series, please share some of your insights with us.

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    • James Sharp

      Thanks for your comment, Scott. I get what you are saying. I disagree that it's arrogance to preach a general salvation when the circumstance calls for it, whether it's Jesus' preaching "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near" or Jonah's terse words for Nineveh. It's when the circumstance *doesn't* call for it and we continue to give a generic word that is the problem. I think we should be very careful calling things abominable that God himself hasn't said. But I agree with you, and it's a good insight - everyone's story is different, everyone's experience of the universality of sin is different, and so our application of God's Word to the individual should be different. I don't think it's an either/or, though. The more general the group, the more general the message will be. The more specific, the more specific. For the individual, individualized. I was blessed to be able to minister to a man dying of AIDS, I tried getting through to him, what finally got through was the promise of eternal LIFE because he was most concerned with DEATH. The problem is universal, his experience and understanding are personal, and the answer that God gives in the Gospel had to be personal for him to get it. I hadn't even thought of it that way until just now.

      Glad I clicked! And thanks for the original post, Bill. :D

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      • Scott Seidler

        Fair enough, James. I would press a bit further on this point...every room or group of people is never a "generic"...there is ALWAYS a particularity to them, a story that gathers them to a common story. It may be general American culture, or some demographic subset that informs the engagement. And I guess that is what I am getting at...knowing your audience--whether an audience of one or several hundred. And, then, making a particular appeal to that audience.

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  • Jason

    This is excellent! Thank you!

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  • FiveTwo Network

    Thank you Jason!

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