When some of us were younger we were taught that we must respect our elders simply because they were older, more experienced, and had all of these wise, righteous, and glorious tales to tell us.
Well, before I get into why some adults really aren’t going to deserve your respect, and for the sake of not being misunderstood by adults who “demand that respect go”, according to Merriam-Webster, respect means the feeling of admiration for someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc. It is having high-regard for certain characteristics, qualities, abilities, or achievements.
You are not a bad person because you do not “admire” or look up to everyone older than you. Although the title of this article is getting some heat because it triggers panic in some adults, I think it’s important to let you know that there’s nothing wrong with you for feeling like you just can’t respect some of them. It’s actually very normal. If we didn’t have adults we don’t respect in our lives, we would not learn how we want to be perceived or how we want to act and behave when we grow up.
I do believe that we should always be polite, courteous, and kind to our elders (and everyone for that matter). I believe those are the terms that adults are really referring to. However, as far as “admiring” every adult goes… that’s probably not going to happen. Not every adult out there is going to deserve your admiration. You may already know a few. We all may know some of the same ones. And the most unfortunate part about this is that they may even be a member of our own family.
I know when I was younger I had a lot of difficulty respecting all of my elders, especially when I would meet one who wasn’t very nice to me or one who was drunk and abusive toward his wife or kids. I’m personally very grateful for having the most kind and loving parents growing up, but that actually made it really hard for me to grasp the fact that there was such darkness out there in the world beyond my house.
I still remember learning that there was such a thing as criminals, burglars, murderers, and to my utter disbelief, rapists and those who were cruel to animals. It confused me because I thought that people who were older than me were supposed to know more. They were supposed to be smarter, more mature, and have something to teach me about being a good person, or something to that effect. I didn’t realize that not every adult cared whether they were good or not.
Turns out that kids and teenagers can be a lot wiser than some adults.
I actually remember having to recall the rule “Respect your Elders!” in the back of my mind when I dealt with certain adults, the ones that were just mean or abusive, provided drugs, alcohol, or pornography to their young teens, or the ones that tried to get a little too “friendly” with me or one of my friends, and so, yea, I respected that they were older and had more experience, but there was no way that some of them would earn my admiration and respect for who they were when all of their good judgment, common sense, and maturity was missing or simply undeveloped.
The only thing that some adults may teach you is that age has nothing to do with real wisdom and that you’re a pretty lucky person if you can grow up and in the process learn right from wrong and choose to be right, while also learning the value of putting yourself in another person’s shoes. You’re lucky when you realize that putting the needs of those you love and the masses before your own ultimately gives you more.
You see, if you only look out for yourself, you will be the only one who does… but when you focus on others, many will look out for you too.
The old saying, “Respect your Elders” should really go something like this…
“Respect those who have gone through some difficult times, looked inward, acknowledged the part they played in it, accepted it, learned from it, grew from it, prevailed because of it, and became a better person despite it.”
That is a wise person and one that I can respect.
Here are 3 characteristics to admire in any adult…
1. They care about others and not just themselves. If this is a parent, they are usually there when you need them. They care enough to try and be a good role model as best they can. (No one knows everything). They focus more on your needs than their own. They listen to you. They aim to provide you with basic needs and a certain amount of security, stability, and consistency. They don’t want you to hurt or worry. They look out for your best interest at all times and they respect your independence and need to be your own individual, even if that means disagreeing with them at times… respectfully of course. They love you and you know it.
Respect these adults. They want what’s best for you and they will offer you the best wisdom that they can conjure up from deep within their own past mistakes and lessons learned. Listening to the experiences and wisdom of someone who cares about you and others can help you avoid much unnecessary pain down the road and give you a heads up on all types of warning signs to look out for. They are not looking to get anything in return. They know empathy and have learned about compassion because there were times when they truly needed it themselves. Don’t disregard the wisdom adults provide you with, they are treasures. Of course, we all need to make our own mistakes and learn our own lessons, that is simply a part of life, but listening to the experiences of kind and genuine people who have “been there and done that” can provide you with valuable insights that could place you on a faster track to a better, happier, and more successful future. Then someday, you’ll have even more wisdom to share with your own kids. They will be lucky.
2. They have healthy relationships with their friends, family, and people at work. They are drama and hostile free. They respect each other. They don’t constantly spend time complaining, fighting, or creating drama around them. They focus on finding solutions rather than harping on problems or creating more of them. More time is spent making happy memories with the people they care about rather than negative ones. They don’t play games to get attention or ask kids to choose sides between parents because, in a child’s eyes, that’s just like asking which foot they like better.
Respect these adults. They learned the art of communication and they know how to maintain healthy relationships. They learned how to navigate through society and they know that drama and fighting won’t solve a darn thing out here in the real grown-up world. They’ve been hurt and they learned what’s necessary to make things better the next go around. They understand how to give and take. They know when to speak and when to listen. These adults are going to be able to clue you in on how to get along with others, the types of people you may want to avoid, and give you some pretty good advice when you have your own relationship issues. Listen to them.
3. They tell the truth and they keep their word. They can be trusted and they do what they say they are going to do. If they don’t, there is a very, very good reason and they discuss it with you. They walk their talk. They are consistent with the way they tell you to act and how they act themselves because they actually know themselves.
Respect these adults. They know that relationships based on truth, facts, and honesty are the healthiest and happiest. They know the importance and benefits of doing what they say they are going to do. They learned the relief that trust provides because they have felt the opposite and chose not to do it to others. You can trust that they don’t have anything to hide. They know how to get more of what they want by simply being themselves and looking out for others.
The next time you come across someone you are unsure of, just ask yourself if they have the characteristics above or get the opinion of another elder who you do respect.
If you happen to live with someone who you don’t think deserves your respect, you certainly should not begin “disrespecting” them or fighting. Don’t do that. That will never solve a thing and make situations worse. Have a relaxing talk with them if they will listen, and if they don’t want to communicate, get defensive, or have no desire to better themselves, just know within yourself that you know better. You know what’s right and what’s wrong. Choose right always and just learn all you can from them. Let their example help you become a better person in the future.
Contrast is one of our greatest teachers.
And if you want to become a grown-up who deserves respect yourself, here’s what you can do…
Be yourself, hang in there during those hard times, look inward, acknowledge your part in any situation, accept what happens to you, learn from it, grow from it, prevail because of it, and become a better person despite it.
You got this.
About the Author: Michelle C. Ustaszeski-Hutchinson is the Founder of The Teen Mentor, LLC, a Personal Development Expert, and the Author and Content Director of The Total Mind Development Program for Teens & Young Adults. Her mission is to help Teens and Young Adults learn about the important stuff they don’t learn in school and to help facilitate the sharing of wisdom from one generation to the next.