Respect your elders. It’s a phrase you probably heard a lot growing up, but what does it truly mean? Should you offer unwavering loyalty to your parents and grandparents, even in the face of betrayal or family problems? Should you hold the door open for your grandparents, letting them enter a building first? Should you listen intently to what they have to say and always, always, always take it to heart?
Respect can mean a lot of things, but honestly, it goes deeper than the word or concept. How we treat our elders, as a society, speaks to how we value their wisdom, experience and what lessons they can teach us.
Our grandparents and elders have a great deal to share and instill in us, even if they don’t necessarily agree with or reflect our own opinions. At times, it could be tough to imagine your grandparents — who might seem to be fairly conservative and negative about the progressive state of today’s world — have ideas to share about life and happiness, but they do.
Back to that whole “respect your elders” thing. It’s not about traditional respect per se — although that’s definitely still important — it’s also about not repeating the past.
By respecting their opinions and experiences, you can use the information to improve your own life or the lives of others. Take some time to listen to their viewpoints and fully appreciate what they’ve been through.
Respect the journey they’ve been on, and give it the weight it truly deserves.
Your grandparents and elders have earned the right to be treated respectfully. They’ve been on this earth for decades — maybe even a century! They’ve seen and been through a lot, both good and bad. They’re human, they’ve made mistakes, and if you pay attention, you might learn from those mistakes just like they did!
They are wise beyond their years, and they have a lot of knowledge, skills, and experiences to share with us. Truthfully, humanity would do best not to repeat many events and actions from its dark past. Learning from mistakes is still the best way to avoid repeating history.
But all this comes off a bit cold and entitled, in a way. Our elders need more than just our attention when it comes to their history and experiences. They also need plenty of love and care.
That’s why it’s extremely unfortunate to see the elderly being ignored and, in some cases, utterly mistreated. Roughly one in 10 Americans older than 60 have been a victim of elder abuse in one form or another. It has also been suggested that today’s elderly are living in a “throwaway culture,” in which their opinions and thoughts are no longer sought or cared about.
This is not only truly saddening, but it is also dangerous for us as a society. It paints an upsetting picture of the state of today’s world. Our elders need our love — they value it more than you realize, and fostering relationships with our elders can be a cathartic and lovely experience for both parties.
It brings to my mind a relevant 2013 homily from Pope Francis. The story follows a family entrusted with the care of an elderly man, likely a father. As he ages, the man is unable to feed himself neatly and makes messes at meals. This inspires his son to buy him a separate table and force him to eat alone, away from the rest of the family. It seems remarkably cruel, but it provides comfort for the rest of the family, who do not wish to see the man making a mess.
But one day, sometime later, the son comes home to find his own son playing with toys. He’s building something. Naturally, the father asks his son what he’s building, and he replies, “[A] table for you, for when you get old like Grandpa.”
This is profoundly sad because it shows the indifference we can pass on to our children, even without necessarily meaning to. It’s also a great example of how a little love — or the absence thereof — can go a long way. If we want to pass on the concept of respect, we need to walk the talk.
Frankly, it all ties back to the big-picture where we learn to respect our elders. If we wish to improve our own lives and the lives of our family members, it’s time the new generation learns to do just that.
Featured Image via pexels.