Dictionary.com defines deference as a respectful submission or yielding to the judgment, opinion, will, etc., of another. Character First! defines deference as limiting my freedom so I do not offend the tastes of those around me.
Two words that immediately jump out at me in the definitions of deference are “submission” and “limiting.” Often we don’t believe we should submit or be limited in anything we do, especially by those around us. We live in the United States of America where all things are possible and there is freedom of speech. So why should we submit to someone else’s opinion or limit our freedom for someone else? But before answering that question, let’s look at some other definitions of deference.
Deference is a…
- Courteous respect for; honor; esteem; reverence
- A courteous expression (by word or deed) of esteem or regard
- Courteous regard for people’s feelings.
If I have a bad day at work, I could go home and take all my frustrations and stress out on my family; however, to do so would not show my honor or esteem for them. This is a time when I should choose to limit my words and expressions out of reverence to them. It’s not that I have to or I am forced to, but I choose to.
If the opposite occurs and I’m having problems at home, I can’t allow that stress to make me hard to get along with or argumentative at work. I have to choose to show a courteous regard for others regardless of the circumstances in my life.
When I’m at work or out in the community, I don’t have to hold the door open for someone else, but choosing to limit the freedom I have to go through the door first expresses respect for the other person.
So back to the original question: why limit our freedom for someone else? Because by choosing to submit or limit my freedom, I am showing a courteous respect for those around me, whether it be family, friend, co-worker or stranger. And by showing that courteous respect I am demonstrating to that individual that I value them.
Choosing to show deference and limiting our freedom doesn’t mean we turn our brain off and do whatever those around us are doing. The character trait of justice keeps deference from becoming compromise. When an issue arises for which we need to take a stand, we take our stand with deference. Deference means expressing a difference of opinion without insulting those we don’t agree with. Also, balancing deference with sincerity allows us to show respect for others and avoid using deference as a way to manipulate.
Practicing deference goes beyond just holding the door for someone else. Building the character trait of deference can help us confront issues directly and avoid unnecessary conflict. Taking the time to listen and not make assumptions, remaining calm and constructive, and valuing others are all key aspects of the character trait of deference.
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