Respecting others is hard enough when all is going well, but what do we do when crisis and quarantine hit us? The simple answer is: we do the same as when life is at its best—only more so. Crises do not negate our responsibilities to love and respect others. They only apply further heat and difficulty while completing the task. My wife is made in the image of God and therefore worthy of respect in how I listen and talk to her, whether we are on a date or across the room in our quarantined existence. And so is anybody else whose path crosses mine—even if they’re six feet away.
For this reason, I need to Chill—guarding my heart and lips so I do not lash out at my wife, or rage against my president or other leaders who I might judge to be incompetent, or turn heated toward the shopper who might have grabbed more TP than he really needed.
For this reason, I need to Open up—making sure I do not retreat into relational isolation, closing up and in on my own self, and making sure I have someone with whom I share my fears and anxieties and hopes and blessings and God-bestowed promises in this hour of trial.
For this reason, I need to Make time—planning moments of meaningful interaction with others, even if only by phone or video.
For this reason, I need to Mean what I say—committing to honesty with others, disclosing my real needs and expectations and disappointments, and keeping my promises to help.
For this reason, I need to Understand what I hear—lingering long enough on the phone or video call to ensure that I have heard how the other person is really doing and what they’re really saying and how they’re really struggling.
For this reason, I need to Nourish with grace—filling my conversations with blessings and divine promises and benedictions and any other words that will leave the other person with more hope and grace than when we started talking.
For this reason, I need to Initiate peace—using my extra time to evaluate my relationships and conflicts to see where I have either offended or been offended and then working to initiate contact with others to seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
For this reason, I need to Celebrate others—making sure to verbally honor and thank all those who are serving in these difficult days, often under duress and in peril of infection, and to celebrate all the ways that people are coping and serving as the days of trial wear on.
For this reason, I need to Assume that I am wrong—remembering that whenever I am tempted to rage against a “stupid” politician or to argue for or against the right ways to address this crisis or to assert that this or that should be done, I am speaking largely out of ignorance. I simply do not know all the facts or have all the answers, and making believe that I do using still another Facebook rant will do no one any good.
For this reason, I need to Think the best—interpreting the actions of others in the best possible light, believing that they are trying hard to get this right, and realizing that fear and isolation can tempt people to do and say things that they otherwise would not.
For this reason, I need to Examine my heart—searching for the cravings and desires that make me willing to rage and fight and quarrel and slander and threaten in order to get them and confessing those unmet desires (no matter how innocent they may be in themselves) to be the heart-idols that they really are.
Why must I commit to COMMUNICATE in this hour of trial? For this simple but profound reason: every person I meet—whether in person at the supermarket, or online in a Zoom meeting, or on a TV screen giving the evening news—is a person who is made in the image of God and destined for eternity. Even as we wrestle with our mortality in the face of a deadly virus, we must remember that no one is a “mere mortal” (as C. S. Lewis said). And remembering this, we must strive to respect each and every one of them, even when in crisis and quarantine.
— Timothy Shorey, author of Respect the Image: Reflecting Human Worth in How We Listen and Talk