“God wants you to be a vessel of honor, not dishonor,” the apostle said to me. My son was still in the hospital at the time, and I was desperately seeking answers from God. His statement resonated so deeply in my soul. See, I was never taught the true principle of honor in church or growing up. The term had been so abused in the home I grew up in that "honor" seemed to be something older people used when they didn’t want to be called out for being out of order. It was also very challenging to exercise honor when the people who were assigned to cover your life fell short over and over again. Thus began the hunt. I studied the concept until I got it down in my soul.
(Birdman telling Hot 97 to put some "respeck" on his name.)
Through my family’s NICU journey, God taught me what honor was and was NOT. Here were my greatest takeaways:
1. Don’t Dishonor Someone God Once Used For You
Can I be sincere? If you allow human behavior to determine why you actually choose to be nice or honor people, you will NEVER honor. This is because even for the best of us, the “act up” is always on the horizon. I have seen it repeatedly in my parents, supervisors, and pretty much any elder in my life. Honor simply means that when the people who once supported you start acting up, you choose to graciously overlook their humanity and love them anyway. It doesn’t mean you have to be super close or tolerate abuse and maltreatment; you honor them by saying to yourself, “I see you cutting up, but I am going to love and respect you, anyway.”
2. Dissension is not Dishonor
I can be pretty vocal when I sense injustice. I have been this way my whole life. Growing up, my father didn’t like telling me about house rules because I always overdid it. Was I a legalist? I don’t know. I was the child who took what you said literally and held you to those lines. I can still recall an uncle visiting our home and repeatedly smoking in the house when my father traveled, blatantly disregarding the no-smoking sign my father posted in our kitchen for safety. It wasn't uncommon for me to wake up in the middle of the night after smelling smoke and walking up to him, stating, “Hi, uncle ___, you have to go smoke outside. My father said no smoking in here.” I quickly got a reputation for being arrogant and found myself in trouble with adults all the time. African culture, and I couldn’t seem to mix, from day one. My view was, “Wrong is wrong. Do what is right, and I won’t have to call you out.” Today, I am not much different. While my delivery may differ, my standard is the same. You can disagree with people and still honor them.
3. Honor Everyone, Not Just People Who Look Important
This is perhaps my greatest pet peeve. I have seen people literally be fake in front of people they perceive to be important and then be totally different people behind their backs. I have also witnessed people look down on others due to social status, earnings, or some other arbitrary superficial measure society uses to ascribe value to human beings. To be sincere, in the past three years, the answers to my greatest, toughest prayers came through the hands and wisdom of people who looked like they had absolutely nothing to offer me. If anything, I watched my parents honor everyone, even people who really deserved the ax, which I will be getting to next.
4. Honor Begins with Honoring God, and Then Yourself.
"Put some 'respeck' on it." You do not need to whore out your gifts and talents in the name of love or Jesus. Listen. I’ve never seen a group of folk want more free stuff than church folk. Not only that, a lot of them want to suck you dry for your time, energy, and resources, rarely pouring back into your life or helping to fill your cup -- then conveniently mention, “we are all doing it for the Lord," when you start to raise concerns or price quoting folks. Ok, keep "doing it for the Lord" and for free, away from me. I call this Christian gaslighting love abuse at its best.
The principle here is this: just as you honor others, you deserve honor as well. When you find yourself in a place where people want your time, talent, and money but cannot celebrate your personhood, or ever seem to prioritize your wellbeing? You are in the sunken place. Get out. Get out now. Love them with the love of Jesus from a distance, so you don't have to blackout and send people to a hell you don’t have to put them in (not that I ever do that…well, maybe sometimes).
Long story short, God wants you to serve with a heart of gladness and to be valued the way he loved and honored you when he sent his WHOLE son to die for you. God didn’t send his Son to die on the cross so you could be used and abused in the name of "honor." If you find yourself in a place where the oil (gifts, talents, and person you are) is not being honored, begin to seek and pray for an exit strategy — because once you start walking in dishonor, it doesn’t matter what they did. You are responsible for your actions, thoughts, and behavior.
5. If You Can’t Say Something Nice, Be Silent Or Leave Altogether
“I have no contribution” has become my best line. Blank stares have become my saving grace. Listen, I might not be able to stop all those alpha woman thoughts from coming, but I am learning to save myself and mind my business. Now, I still call out injustice when I am privileged to do so, but I am learning that every fight is not my fight. Some of those battles are above my pay grade; they belong to the Lord.
When I find myself in spaces that work my last nerve, I know I have to leave before I disrespect someone and dishonor one of God’s children. I have a choleric personality, which means the clap back usually comes before anything. I am gradually learning to manage the thorn in my side that comes with my personality by policing the energy I allow around me. The chances of me changing my value system at this point are slim to none, but I can choose who I spend time with and manage my energy.
Where do you struggle when it comes to honoring others? I want to encourage you to bring it to God. There are amazing rewards in store for God’s children who choose honor. Here are two resources to support you if you are struggling in this area:
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