A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

You will NOT talk to ME that way

show me respect In an emergency situation recently, I tried urgently to get help from a person in authority. The response to the situation stunned me. The authority figure yelled, “You will NOT talk to ME that way. You WILL straighten up and speak to ME with respect.” Later, I was ruminating on the conversation and his phrasing. Why did he rebuke that way? If a person shouldn’t speak a certain way (I wasn’t disrespectful, by the way), what does HE have to do with it? He turned the emergency into a demonstration of his authority and my relative insignificance. Hmm. Do I do that with my children? With anyone? Anywhere? If I shouldn’t speak a certain way, I just shouldn’t. I should show respect to others because they are created in God’s image, not because of WHO they are or how unimportant I am by comparison. I prayed about it. I asked God to teach me to train my children to speak with respect because they love and honor Him, not because they are less valuable than others. What does using the phrase “You will NOT speak to ME that way” teach? It teaches the hearers to abuse those they deem inferior to themselves or to excuse abusive behavior in others. Abusers abuse because they feel entitled to treat some people with disrespect. This phrasing reinforces that idea in everyone’s minds. It sends a message that some people are so special that one must be careful to only speak in ways which reinforce their sense of entitlement and superiority. But what about everyone else? Some Bible verses that came to mind:

Deut 1:17 You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s… James 2: 8-9 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

Now when responding to my kids’ sassiness, I am very careful to only instruct them to demonstrate honor and respect. I point out that their speech is disrespectful and that they must show honor to others. I don’t bring ME into it. I might coach them to “Show honor” or “Demonstrate a respectful voice,” or to “Try again and change your tone.”  I might ask them, “What’s Ephesians 4:29?” (Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.) or “What’s Colossians 4:6?” (Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.) Or I might direct them to, “Examine yourselves” (from 1 Cor 11:28 and the inspiration for the answer to the Children’s Catechism question “Who may partake of the Lord’s supper?“). I instruct the children to show honor because it’s right, not because of WHO they are addressing. If they are speaking, it should be with speech that brings honor to God and all his image bearers, not just the ones who flaunt their authority.


  1. In Christ Alone

    A timely & much needed post… thank you! I’ve been really struggling with how to correct my son regarding his tone of voice and his disrespectful speech, especially toward his sister (and sometimes towards me). The ugliness of speech has been modeled to him by his dad for so long that he now often speaks in abusive ways without even thinking about it… and later feels awful. He takes the Word seriously, so shifting my focus to these texts is a wonderful reminder today that I think will help him (and me!). When correcting him, I have to be so careful to not use my authority as the reason for expecting his compliance. This is really no different than what our abuser has done to us…

    • Anon

      “I have to be careful not to use my authority as the reason for expecting his compliance. This is really no different than what our abuser has done to us.”

      Exactly! People really show their truest selves when given power and authority. Those who take seriously their role, and wish to ensure they do not abuse or misuse their privileged and advantaged position, are the ones who deserve such power.

  2. bright sunshinin' day

    Excellent post, Ellie! You said: ” I asked God to teach me to train my children to speak with respect because they love and honor Him, not because they are less valuable than others. What does using the phrase “You will NOT speak to ME that way” teach? It teaches the hearers to abuse those they deem inferior to themselves or to excuse abusive behavior in others. Abusers abuse because they feel entitled to treat some people with disrespect.”
    We show respect to others because, as you said, each person is created in God’s image.

  3. Suzanne

    Abusers are everywhere, but I suspect that government is populated by a higher proportion of them because official authority is something that appeals to their sense of themselves as special and powerful. I’m sorry that you had to deal with one of them in an emergency. That must have made things so much worse. I hope that you have opportunity to speak out about this persons conduct toward you. No one in such a position should exhibit the behavior he did.

    • Ellie

      The authority figure did apologize later. At first he apologized that I “got [my] feelings hurt and got offended.” So he apologized for what I did. I didn’t respond at all. Just dead air for a bit. Then I informed him that my feelings weren’t hurt and I wasn’t offended. I asked him what HE did that HE was apologizing for. He eventually apologized for yelling and asked that I forgive him and I did.

      • Sarah

        “So he apologized for what I did. I didn’t respond at all. Just dead air for a bit. Then I informed him that my feelings weren’t hurt and I wasn’t offended. I asked him what HE did that HE was apologizing for.” – Ellie

        Excellent strategy — the ‘dead air’ and ‘volley back’ combination. Nicely done, Ellie!

      • joepote01

        Good for you! What a terrific way of handling the situation.

  4. Lisa

    This is really good (this post) in helping me examine my heart. The disrespect accusation really baffled me at first. I was so confused when the ex would yell/rage that at me because I was taught to respect others and I was not considered a disrespectful person by anyone. Over the years I learned that they (abusers) project almost everything and so I realized as I thought more and more about it, that he was the disrespectful one. When I came out of denial about 18 years of the almost 21 years married I saw how some of the abusers traits had come on me and also on my daughter. This is a great reminder to allow yet another “purging” of toxic yuk from myself and to help guide my teen.Thank you.:)

    • joepote01

      Excellent observation, regarding the projecting.

  5. de

    While I agree with this article-I really do-and see your points when it comes to abusers and the sense of entitlement that can come from authority.I have disagree that using “you will not to speak to me that way” is always a form of abuse.I have used that with my own kids-who know that I esteem them as God’s children, my children and persons of worth. And none would say they felt demeaned by me-ever. But when the “tone” comes into play-they need to know that they do need to treat those in authority (and I and their father, are their authority in the home) with respect. That doesn’t mean becoming a door mat for an abuser-it means that there are those who need to be shown respect -ie-authority figures. That is one of the reasons some of today’s kids think they can do whatever they want-in disregard to anyone else-they have not been taught to respect authority. So while there are those who would use that phrase as a way of excreting themselves above others-it is not always the case. Just like some would use spankings as a punishment instead of a disciplinary tool.

    • Ellie

      I don’t think the phrase is always used to abuse. But I want to teach my kids to show respect because of who they are, not because of who they are addressing. I frequently tell them, “We don’t speak that way.” This is because WE don’t. We learn the catechism and we learn to glorify God, to speak with honor and respect because it brings glory to Him, not just the hearer. “You will not talk to me that way” isn’t needed to communicate that. I can simply remind them that WE don’t speak that way. None of us do. Because we are His.

    • thepersistentwidow

      De, I have to agree with you. Even though all persons deserve honor because they are made in the image of God, Scripture teaches a specific hierarchy of authority that we must respect. Just as the Commandment teaches we must give special honor to our mother and father, despite their weaknesses, that same mandate extends to all those that God has placed over us for our good such as teachers, police, government officials, and leaders of the church. Out of obedience towards God, we honor them and dignify their office. However, if any lead us into sin, we must follow God rather than men.

      So I do agree that some deserve special honor because of their vocation in life and God commands we render it. We actually glorify God by accepting this commandment in faith.
      As you mentioned, the breakdown in society by the rejection of God’s mandate on this issue is evident.

    • I guess the crucial question is what is meant by “respect,” and the recognition that respect is a two-way street. In my experience, most Christian parents use “honor your parents” to silence honest expression by their children, i.e. you’re not allowed to disagree with me or express your opinion because I’m the parent, and if you do you are “disrespectful.” They also seem to think that they’re allowed to disrespect their children whenever they want, simply because they are the parents, and the children are never allowed to object. In fact most of them don’t seem to recognize that children have personal boundaries just like adults (even if their autonomy is limited because they’re too young and immature to make all of their own decisions; this one obviously varies by age). If you don’t respect your children, don’t be surprised when they don’t respect you in return, and don’t learn how because you never modeled it for them.

      An example of what I mean from my childhood: a homeschool friend was tickling his young daughter over and against her strenuous objections. My mom took him aside afterwards and gently pointed out that he was demonstrating to his daughter that she shouldn’t expect people to listen when she says “no” in regard to her physical boundaries. In other words, it’s cute when she’s 5 and it’s her dad tickling her. Not so cute when she’s 25 and it’s her boyfriend pressuring her to have sex. He was honestly surprised and had never thought about it that way.

    • Good point, de, and welcome to the blog 🙂

  6. With my teen daughter, I do occasionally say, “You will NOT speak to me that way.” Emphasis on the NOT, rather than the persons. There are times when I need to remind her that I’m the mom.

    Otoh, I can do this without escalating the moment because I have worked very hard all her life to make sure *she* feels respected as a person, not held in place like a possession.

    • de

      Excellent Marah-that is what I have done also-emphasizing the “not” and not the personage. I have told them they are free to disagree-and even discuss the situation-but they are not to have an “attitude” or to speak to me in a manner they themselves would not like to be spoken to.They are their own persons with likes and dislikes-but so am I and they have learned to respect people whether they agree with them or not.

      • Anon

        I have to disagree. I hear this line from authoritative parents who lord over their children and routinely demand complete and total obedience from their children, no matter what, because they are the parents and the 4th commandment says that children are to honor their father and mother…….

        A lot of times the parents are the hyper-sensitive, temper tantrum throwing, “bad attitude” exhibiting parties and yet since there is this constant expectation/demand/requirement that the parents are lords and masters and above reproach….. often times those parents are the very ones who are so hyper-controlling, dominating, overbearing parents……

        Just my opinion, though….

        Rubs me the wrong way to hear that dreaded phrase, regardless of which particular word in the sentence is given the most emphasis.

  7. I’ve found that people who talk that way and feel the need to demand respect from other people, have usually already well-deservedly lost the respect of everyone around them via their own behavior. Using their status as an authority figure (however dubious it may be) to try and beat / force it out of their subordinates is the only thing they have left. There are usually earlier and more subtle warning signs before it comes to screaming and yelling, though – for instance, constant reminders of degrees and credentials (“I’m a professional so I know what I’m talking about”) as a way to put down and ignore suggestions by people the speaker perceives as unqualified to criticize them and their ideas.

    Per the concerns about disrespectful children, in my experience the commandment to honor your parents is probably the most abused one. I have seen parents construe things as “disrespect” that are really just their children asking questions or expressing their opinions, not to mention all the “Christian” parenting manuals that want parents to discipline children for nothing but the parents’ perception of their body language (which might well be completely involuntary and not a conscious action by the child). In many cases it was obvious to me that the only thing being violated is the parent’s ego and not any Biblical commands. And all these ideas are routinely used to tell children to overlook abusive actions by their parents, because they should “respect their authority” and not air the family’s dirty laundry by reporting them. The Botkin sisters are esp. fond of that one.

    Personal example: my grandfather is a hoarder and an abuser (possibly a thief too but I can’t prove that). I have zero respect for him because he lost it a long time ago with his own actions. He doesn’t have a special right to have his toxic behavior overlooked or downplayed because he fills the “office” of my grandfather. I show him basic human decency because he is made in the image of God but little beyond that. Should that be considered problematic?

    • Bunny

      Sometimes the reason someone feels the need to “demand” respect is because their children are modeling the disrespect of the abusive parent. They want to stop their kids from being abusive!

      • Hi Bunny, welcome to the blog 🙂

        We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      • Sorrowful

        Yes, I’m dealing with that on an enormous level right now. I only pray things can swiftly change before I lose my sanity. Every day is a constant battle.

  8. Lisa

    Another thought……of course, we should all respect each other. What I realized was that when the ex would demand and/or rage at me about not respecting him he was not only projecting, but many times he just wanted me to idolize him. What the abuser calls respect and what respect really looks like aren’t the same thing. At least this was in my case and I began to discern this in other situations with other people. On one of the first visits to speak with my pastor I told him how I would be at the receiving end of this yelling, “You don’t respect me!” My pastor looked at me and said, “Well, a husband has to love his wife first.” I was shocked and pleased at that response to say the least.:)

    • Anon

      Good point, Lisa. The ‘respect’ demanded and expected of so many is not actually respect but rather idolatry/worship.

  9. Great article, thanks. I have always told my children that I have no issue with them disagreeing with me but the disagreement needs to be expressed with respect. I’m encouraged to feel like I’ve actually been doing something right 🙂

  10. hopeandafuture777

    I have said these words to abusive husband when he says nasty, hurtful things to me, but the empasis is on “not”.

    • Sunflower

      That’s the first thing that came to my mind……that is what I have been taught to say to my h when he is showing disrespect. Or, “I will not accept disrespect.” I can’t tell him what to do but I can tell him what I will accept, and how I will respond.

    • Hi Hopeandafuture — welcome to ACFJ 🙂

  11. healingInHim

    Insightful article and comments … I am sensing it is too late for me. I have no voice when it comes to family; only God can change stony hearts. I have never had the love and support from my spouse therefore, why should adult children and extended family show any type of respect? Attempting to set boundaries in order to protect my personhood has only been met with derision, scoffing and alienation.

    • soldiergirl

      HealinginHim, i hear you.
      I am in a similar situtation because I did not come out of the fog for a long time.
      I had more.that one adult child before i was aware of my situtation with my abuser, and i still see the effects on them today from growing up in an air of contempt and disrespect towards me.
      It is hard to undo.
      But i try to embrace any moments of opportunity when they
      reach out to me, while gently correcting any previously learned disrespect that they were taught over the years, in hopes of reestablishing new healthy attitudes towards me.
      It seems like a long road of recovery some days but i am noticing small improvements over time.
      This is most effective with the abuser out of the picture.

      • healingInHim

        Soldiergirl – Thank you for the encouragement, however, the abuser is more welcome into their lives than I am; he is definitely not out of the picture. (perhaps you were meaning out of my life? how sad that this is what he is doing – nicely waiting me out and pushing me away)
        And I have that ‘gut feeling’ that I can’t trust the children or extended family … I don’t go sneaking around for information but the Lord has allowed certain family members to make comments. After much counseling I have been told to be careful.

      • soldiergirl

        I know where you are at. They are projecting your abusers feelings towards you, and.that is a hard place to be.
        I will pray that you will be strengthened by what you know to be true, and that the Lord grants you wisdom in how to navigate through this, and that you dont lose hope.
        My boundries were resisted, scoffed at and mocked at as well, ( at first) but i stood my ground, and put locks on all of my room doors.( It otherwords I uped my boundries with greater measures when met with resistance.)
        Boundries are my way of saying what you have done to me is not ok, so they make a statement even if not well recieved at first.
        But the opposition tries to deny your right to defend and protect yourself.
        It is indeed a daily spiritual battle and ill pray for wisdom and strength for you to presevere.

      • healingInHim

        “But the opposition tries to deny your right to defend and protect yourself” …That is exactly where I am at.
        I have never blamed God for the circumstances. My greatest concern is that I live out my life according His infallible Word. It’s a wake up call to have Scripture untwisted and then know that my so called ‘meekness’ at first was condoning sin. By time I began to set boundaries I was seen as being ‘demanding’. When others have shared how they have dealt with children in their youth and even as adults — I have not been demanding at all!

  12. anon

    Hi. Does anyone know if Ellie still does ‘translations’ and if so where I can contact her?

    • unfortunately she is not able to do them anymore.

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