Generations


Have you ever seen those memes come around about being spanked with hand, belt or wooden spoon and how it means one learned respect for elders?  Well, that was not my experience.  I learned deference perhaps, but no respect was generated within such encounters.  Respect is either granted or earned not demanded or enforced, at least not in my experience and observation.

According to the definitions of each, deference may be granted respectfully and respect may be exhibited through deference, but there exists a difference, doesn’t there?

Respect:

                – esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability:

                 I have great respect for her judgment.

Respect is esteem granted.

Deference:

respectful submission or yielding to the judgment, opinion, will, etc., of another.

Deference is the submitting or yielding that may be done in a respectful manner but not necessarily involving actual esteem for another.

                 – deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment:

                  respect for a suspect’s right to counsel; to show respect for the flag; respect for the elderly.

Deference is an outward behavior associated with respect.  But the two, true esteem and outward acquiescence are not necessarily always entwined.

When Confucius observed the respect and obedience of the senior by the junior, he also observed consideration and protection of the junior by the senior.  Elders may choose to respect youth to enhance their self-esteem despite their outward manner revealing a lack thereof and perhaps earn respect in return.  But this seems to have been lost in Western culture during earlier generations where “children should be seen but not heard” was one of several such expectations of the day.  Deference to authority via behavior modification tactics, like spanking and emotional manipulation, had been the norm, and this had cascaded into most authoritative relationships, whether patriarchal structures in business and religion or police and school teachers.  But I will continue to argue that deference is not respect.  It is deference, an outward behavior of acquiescence regardless of whether true respect is involved.

In later generations, parents are learning new ways to treat children as their own people, as emotional beings who deserve guidance and support versus punishment and behavior modification.  We now have the opportunity to model consideration and vulnerability to the enhancement of our parent-child relationships.  Therefore, positions of authority – elders, police, business leaders and management – are less granted the deference to which they may be accustomed or expecting, for all their years of deference to their own authority figures.  They are faced with having to exhibit consideration and protection of their subordinates and underlings to earn actual respect.  And this is a tough space to be.

In social science terms, we discuss personal and positional agency.  There is a greater requirement now for personal agency even within authoritative positions because the position itself does no longer necessarily command deference.  The person in authority is more required to exhibit respectful behaviors themselves so that respect becomes a reciprocal aspect of a relationship based in mutual esteem.  This is where love resides and productivity excels.

If you are one of those in authority – a parent, manager or leader of some kind, it will do everyone well to let go expectations of deference (or in some’s terms, respect) and rather develop mutually respectful relationships.  For despite the agency we may have traditionally afforded positions of authority, is it real or beneficial to keep faking it through mere deference?

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I awoke this morning with the thought: let go of all that does not serve your purpose.

Upon pondering this thought and in the context of my own experience and in the experiences that I witness being played out by others, I came upon a realization that although we are always who we are at our core (where our purpose resides), we are either living in awareness of what that is or have it hidden from us based on whether we were molded to be, in myriad ways, or whether we were guided through our choices. This is, of course, nothing new. I am simply catching up more deeply to something discovered in a series of workshops back in 2007-2008.

Like many, perhaps most, children, I was required to behave in a manner conforming to societal expectations. This has been the acceptable mode for generations. Some of us are lucky enough to at some point, usually later in life, begin shedding that behavioral programming. One of the simplest examples I can give of this programming is the expectation of altruism, the concept of doing for others. I still witness this, this programming our children to think of others first. Now, don’t get me wrong, the concept is a good one, just not when it is programmed through typical behavior modification. The concept is best applied and most effective for all concerned when we arrive at it by choice. And, it is sad, really, because children can be very altruistic. There are, in fact, plenty of opportunities to nurture this tendency, but we seem to miss those and, instead, force the behavior in situations where it is not naturally present. Or, we miss asking the right questions to invite the choice.

As a result, we end up with many of our adult society begrudgingly living life for everyone else, self-molding to external expectations. This was my experience, and one that I witness now as fairly common, perhaps because I am on my journey of breaking free from it. I find it sad that so many are living a life of conforming to others’ expectations and suffering in the process. This has led to a great victimization cycle in society – meeting expectations then subconsciously begrudging and blaming everyone else for programmed choices. The rules have changed, and are changing, and those programmed to the old rules are struggling, simply because we have not learned how to make choices based in our own (guided) experience and wisdom.

Now maybe, if you’re following me on this, some have less programming to shed than others, but this has been the norm, subconscious in many ways, for all this time. There is hope, though. Recent generations are revealing a shift, generally speaking. The problem is that it is a shift to extreme, so that many are confounded by what is happening, and younger generations appear a bit lost because, as usual, parents come with good intentions but a lack of know-how. We haven’t developed the most effective process for nurturing our children to choose wisely and within the context of existing societal rules. The result seems to be a generation of rebellion against those societal norms. I remain hopeful, though, because the problem has been so changed up that we are looking at it differently, and it provides us opportunity to affect a more effective solution.

It has been more than a few times that someone from an earlier generation has begun a diatribe on the calamities of a later generation. Each time, I have stopped them with the phrase, “We are from whence we came.”

I cannot experience WWII as my grandparents did simply because they created an experience absent of  World War.  My generation brought forth technology and consumerism which created the experience of more current generations.  In this, we cannot deny the influence each generation has upon the next and all those that come after.

We would do well not to abdicate the role we play as a generation in what we see as the demise of those that come after us.  Quite simply, “We made it possible.”

Most respectfully,

~ Jacqueline