Is it better to be liked than respected?

Étienne Prosper Berne-Bellecour - The wounded soldier
Étienne Prosper Berne-Bellecour – The wounded soldier

As soon as I saw the title of this post from Cold Case Christianity, I knew it would be significant to me.

J. Warner Wallace writes:

Popularity often requires agreement. It’s easy to like people who hold the same opinions and values. It’s not really surprising, therefore, that many of us, in an effort to be liked, try to find a way to come to agreement with the people around us. And that’s where the trouble usually starts. There are two ways to form agreement:

1. Influence others toward our position, or
2. Simply embrace the positions of others

We can try to move them toward us, or we can simply move toward them. One of these strategies will ensure our likability but the other is the path to respect.

[…]We want our kids to influence others rather than allow their friends to influence them, don’t we? While it may be easy to embrace the beliefs of others to gain approval, we know the courageous path requires us to point others to the truth, even when it’s inconvenient or unpopular. It’s time for the Church to take this second path. We’ve spent far too much time trying to become like the world in order to win its acceptance, rather than having the moral courage to make the case for what we believe. Only this second way will win the respect of those around us. I want to hear people say, “Jim, I don’t agree with you at all, but I respect the fact that you’ve tried to be thoughtful about your position and you were kind to me along the way.” That’s the kind of reaction I’m looking for.

Recently, I had to make a hard choice about whether to agree with someone else, or tell her the truth. I found myself discussing education, career and finances with a young lady. I was telling her about the likely consequences of some of the choices that she was making that were related to one of the two areas that I actually know something about. (The other area is apologetics, and she already knows lots about that)

I gave her some advice based on my understanding of these things – from my experience. There was no doubt that when it came to these areas, I had more experience than she did, and more results to show for my past decisions in those areas. But I could feel her slipping away the more evidence I showed her. She preferred to listen to people who agreed with what her feelings were telling her. Eventually, I lost her. But there was nothing else I could do. I spoke the truth based on what I knew and experienced myself in those areas. I wouldn’t have given her advice in many other areas where she knew much more than I did – just in this one, where I actually knew what I was talking about.

Fortunately other young people do take my advice in those areas, and it does work out well for them. But for me to tell them what they don’t want to hear does take courage. And sometimes, you end up losing someone close who just doesn’t believe that you know what you are talking about. So I would say that telling the truth and pointing to evidence does not always get you respect for what you know about. It gives you a chance of being respected.

By the way, I could still be proven wrong with that lady I was advising. It’s happened before. I think I told her the truth, and I hope one day she will see that.

5 thoughts on “Is it better to be liked than respected?”

  1. The idea that Jesus accepted everybody with open arms is so overstated, emotionalized, and abused. It’s people pleasing with a distorted biblical backing. It leads to “nice guy”ness and timidity. I remember being told all my life that girls wanted “nice guys”, so I dedicated my life to being that super nice guy. It doesn’t work. It lead me to confusion (why isn’t this working?) anger (why do all the jerks get the girl?) and depression (why doesn’t anybody chose me?). Jesus of the media (and so many churches) doesn’t seem like a man all that much anymore. It’s like they dismiss the Jesus of Revelations.

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  2. The quickest way to make an enemy of family or friends or acquaintances in our absurdist times is to tell them the truth. People want nothing more than to have their sins affirmed, and, yes, I am guilty of this too.

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  3. You story shows the condition of a vast amount of people. I’m often asked for my opinion of things, but, in the end, I’ve discovered that few people really want an honest opinion. Many merely want someone to affirm what they already thought / believed. Thinking or having to admit they are not omniscience is a difficult task for many. So, here’s 1 vote for respect.

    And this is also great because I was just thinking about the whole idea of being “liked” versus standing up for my convictions the past week. For so long, I think the tendency of modern society is to belittle Christians so that we feel the need to play down our convictions and try hard to be liked, at the cost of truth. I’m glad there are other people who aren’t playing that game.

    If anyone reading this is trying hard to be popular instead of honest — stop!

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  4. Good points. The fastest way to win friends and influence people is to lie to them. If you wish to be cast aside and treated a bit like an outlier, speak the truth. LOL, unfortunately, thou shall not lie.

    This is entirely a female perspective, but we tend to only like what we can respect. We don’t really “like” people we don’t respect. Some women may claim they do, but the people we will eventually reject are usually the ones we like, but have lost all respect for. Sometimes it takes a while for this to all play out, but it’s true.

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  5. “This is entirely a female perspective, but we tend to only like what we can respect.”

    I could live with this if it weren’t clear that quite a lot of people (not just women) define “worth respecting” or “respectable” as “what I’m already inclined to like”. The distinction only makes sense if you have a consistent idea of what you respect *without* liking it.

    Norman Spinrad once wrote, “The opprobrium of @$$holes is a badge of honour.” I understand his sentiment but think one caveat needs to be kept in mind: you have to be careful you aren’t defining “@$$hole” as “anyone who gives me opprobrium”.

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