Respect Your Elders

7 04 2011

“Respect Your Elders”. This little tidbit of advice from adults is probably the biggest batch of crap that can be handed down from generation to generation. Surely Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson’s parents offered this sage advice to their nieces and nephews. Respect is earned, not granted.

Kids forgive most everything, so earning respect should not be a difficult thing. However, being told what to do goes against every grain of my being. There are so many people I have known who have had no right for respect ever – they are dishonest, disloyal, solicitous, obnoxious, inconsiderate, and mean. A few of these have been family members – luckily for me very few, but occasionally some sneak through.

Once a person has gained your respect, you should pay close attention to what they say and the examples they set. If your judgement is sound and well-reasoned, these “elders” can offer perspective, advice, and attitudes that are invaluable if you can just listen, listen, listen, and then assimilate.

Of course, all of these great encouragements are worthless if you have chosen to respect an aunt, uncle, cousin, or other relative who enjoys disembowling living creatures, various forms of torture, pedophilia, or can’t believe that none of the “Saw” movies were ever nominated for an Academy Award. Again, this is why the phrase “Respect Your Elders” should not be followed without close examination. Even when you are young, you should trust your judgement sometimes.

We all eventually make our decisions who to respect, disrespect, hang around with, and run away from. This direction cannot come from anybody else telling you to “Respect” someone just because they are older – age does not inherently bring wisdom. Let them earn it – and remember, you need to earn others’ respect also. For instance, one way not to set an example is to hide under the stairwell during a family holiday get-together drinking Thunderbird from a paper bag and occasionally yelling “my thong is riding up again!” On the other hand, this behavior is likely to garner the respect of at least one off-kilter person in the family – this kind of stuff is what makes generational anthropology so much damn fun!




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