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Lighthouse - May, 2018.

Respect For Ones Elders?


If you are one of the many who regularly use social media, you will be aware of the gap which appears to be growing between the generations. The young appear to blaming the older generation for not making it easier for younger people to progress. Equally the older ones cannot understand why they are not shown the respect that they believe they deserve. After all they have, over many years, invariably contributed much to society.

It is true that different cultures treat the generation gap in dissimilar ways but generally, until recent times, the overall thrust encouraged respect for ones elders. Traditional Indian culture is a prime example of this. Equally the saying: ‘Learn from the people who have walked the path before you. Respect them because that chances are, sooner than you can imagine, you’ll be walking along a similar path’; is a truth not to be ignored.
However the growth of social media and its ability to link-up like minded persons has brought many traditional attitudes into question. Youth brings with it an assurance that simply wasn’t there, only three or four decades ago, when views use to be more isolated and not inter-related. Nowadays the sound of everyone shouting together cannot be ignored.

At sixteen it seems perfectly reasonable to say, “I am an adult and therefore I should be treated as one. Older people have no more rights to life, than I have, so why should I respect them? We’re just the same!” Of course, what this view overlooks is the fact that the passage of years gives plenty of time and opportunities to step up, screw up, take decisions and live with the consequences. This is why elders tell youth to respect their elders because they have already had the same experience. We’ve all probably said, at one time or another, “I am old enough to decide” only to regret it later on, because we had not taken the advice of those who were older. They have had the experience already, been there and done that, and therefore know the outcome regardless of the younger person’s deliberations. Experience is what matters and the longer we live the more we gain.

So that’s it sorted then is it? Young people should respect their elders? Well it isn’t as simple as this because if we defer to other well-known sayings:-
‘Mutual respect is the foundation of genuine harmony’ and ‘Respect will never be freely given, you must earn it’, it becomes clear that gaining respect is a two-way process. As a consequence the ironic part about gaining respect is that, in order to earn it you must give it!

This has never been truer than with our current generational demographics in terms of communication techniques and skills. Older people, in general, still prefer to chat and come to valued judgments; whereas youth has been brought-up on making more instantaneous responsive decisions. Of course an ability to take time to consider may well be seen, by younger folks, as the elderly slowing down. But coming to fully informed decisions based on experience usually does take time. It’s the way problems are avoided and contingency plans are made. Youth often doesn’t see the need to plan for other eventualities, because lack of experience often gives them a misguided full confidence in what they are doing. Quite rightly it is this confidence that makes young people unique and is an attribute which older people should never forget. We have all experienced this confidence, because it is part of growing up, and accordingly deserves respect.

So there it is; you have a summary about the need for respect between the generations, in a nutshell! But remember children always look up to their parents as role models. If mother and father have a way of life which shows respect, without discrimination to everyone, then their children will also start reciprocating. This accords with the a quotation from 18th century Irish novelist, Laurence Sterne, ‘ Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners’. Regardless of the influence of social media this style of family culture encourages generous, empathetic and self-respecting individuals who equally respect others, young or old. What could be better than this for all our futures?
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