Fear and Respect: The Nightshades

Wisdom Nugget


Fear and Respect: The Nightshades

The Solanaceae family of plants includes one of the deadliest of plants in the Eastern hemisphere as well as some of the most nutritious such as tomatoes and potatoes. Same family – vastly different effects.

Fear and Respect are in the same family of emotions that can be used to influence or control, and they also have vastly different effect. Fear of a person involves recognition of the person’s ability to harm you and a belief that such harm could in fact happen. Respect of a person involves recognition of a person’s physical and / or character qualities that are viewed as laudable and worthy of admiration.

I had a college student years ago who was a very big man. He was somewhere near 6’3” and must have weighed 300 pounds. There was not an ounce of fat on the guy. He had narrow hips, huge broad shoulders, and arms thicker with muscle more than most men’s legs. On top of that, he was a MMA fighter/trainer and a former special forces member in the military. Literally, on top of all that, he had a Marine crewcut, plus a deep voice, and a very sharp mind. His physical presence intimidated people. You could see that in the classroom. The other students deferred to him and backed away physically and intellectually – for good reason – and he was used to that reaction from others, and expected it.

In this class – like most of my classes – I often playfully badger and cajole people as a way to get them to think, and I did so with him. One day, he was my target and he got defensive. He stared at me and leaned forward menacingly and told me that he could jump across the two rows of desks between us and use any one of seven different techniques he knew to kill me in under a minute. The room went silent, waiting for the attack.

I responded with a quiet smile. I told him that I fully believed that he could do that very thing… but that I was not afraid of him doing so… because I believed that he was, in fact, not going to do so. I didn’t even take it as a threat. I took it as him using a tried and true technique of getting his way. I told him that I suspect that method was very effective with almost everyone – but not with me – because I felt I knew him well enough to believe that he simply would not do that in that place and at that time. He sat back and smiled… and after that he treated me differently.

Fear motivates others through intimidation and coercion. Respect motivates others through admiration, a desire to emulate, and a settled trust that the other person will act wisely and unselfishly.

My other students feared him… all of them, however, respected me. They knew I had power over them (in the classroom and over their grades), but they also believed that I was honest and fair and that I genuinely wanted them to succeed.

Parents, I pray that you all would learn to motivate your children through respect and not fear – both Mother’s and Fathers. We can get our kids to obey us out of fear of us wielding a hand, a stick, a belt or by withholding things. This works for the moment, but it does not accomplish what I think we really want – and that is for our children to develop good character.

This is especially true with Fathers. We can get our family to fear us – both our children and women, but it will not only not have the effect of developing good character or deepening love; it may also damage and possibly destroy any chance for respect.

Fathers, if your wives and children fear you, you may gain momentary obedience and subservience, but you will lose their respect and their love.

It is often a fine line, just like the minor DNA difference between a deadly belladonna nightshade and delicious and healthy blueberries. If you see fear in your loved one’s eyes, you are losing the battle in parenting and in your relationship with your partner.  It might get you what you want for the short term, but it may poison and kill the relationships with those you love.

For more Wisdom Nuggets, go to www.jimshaul.org

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