Respect for Elders – Part 1

When we look up the term “respect: in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, we are provided with two definitions that pertain to the type of respect that is shown to elders. The first definition is “an act of giving particular attention (consideration). The second is “high or special regard (esteem).

If we take each of these definitions down one more layer, “consideration” refers to “thoughtful and sympathetic regard”. For the term “esteem”, the meaning is “the regard in which one is held; especially: high regard”.

There are a number of reasons why the concept of “respect for your elders” is not just limited to this country; rather, it is a global concept that is held in both industrialized and developing countries. Many cultures have found that a key ingredient to a stable society is incorporating the value provided by those who have gone before us, the older generation as it were. They have knowledge and life experiences from having already traveled down the road of life upon which we are ready to embark. Thus, why re-invent the wheel? Why make the same mistakes they made? Why not learn from them to make our journey easier and more fruitful? Thus, we owe it them to provide us the knowledge they have gained so that we might build our future on the foundation of life they have already laid. Whether it is the development of new technology or passing of generational wisdom on how to hunt wild game in the bush of Africa, there is much we can learn from the older generation.

Our elders have also passed onto us their traditions. Whether these represent family heritage or national history, these traditions were crafted by those before us who felt the importance of selected life events as being a part of the societal fabric. From grandmother’s holiday cookie recipe, to grandfather’s skill with wood, to national holidays, to the how the holiday trees are to be decorated – all of these help define our family, village, and national identity. It is to this unique identity that we owe are forbearers a measure of respect.