“Respect your elders” is a lesson that is immediately passed down from generation to generation. However, a one-sided entitlement is also passed along with this lesson. Though elders are to be respected, a complementary lesson of “you want respect, you earn it” is passed down as well. These two lessons conflict in a confusing manner that results in younger kids wondering: are elders earning the respect they receive?
At this point in the argument many may debate that the issue is completely moot and the questioning of such a thing shows complete disrespect. But having grown up in a culture that heavily embeds an inherent respect, it is important I point out a few things. It isn’t a matter of disrespect to point out that some adults have not earned the respect they get. Respect is a heavily valued principle, and principles come with standards. Many cultures ingrain respect as the main priority within a family in a child’s mind upon birth; among those cultures, the ones stemming from Asia have developed rather strict practices circling this value. The issue is not with the general concept- of course, respect is a necessary part of a functioning community- but the size of the community is important. Upon birth, it is instilled that the community is basically those that remain within the bloodline. Now the dynamic of the community is only a one-way relationship similar to that of a traditional food chain. The linear hierarchy places the most important of the monarchial figure at the top and slowly panders down to the weakest, but in this case, strength is not determined by diet but rather by age. The eldest of the household remains at the top while slowly moving down until the youngest are at the bottom. There isn’t anything wrong with this picture unless you’re at the bottom. Being of a younger age myself, this type of mindset immediately brings others to roll their eyes and put these ideas aside as being childish or entitled. Listen to the effects this system has on others.
I am not suggesting there's an issue with respecting those who are older. That is a principle that I too live by and it stems from the idea that with age comes experience, and with experience comes wisdom. In this sense, it is vital to remember that a person needs to have the personality that is willing to accept learning experiences. There are plenty of stubborn people in the world who stand testament that despite experiences, not everyone learns from it. If that is the case then there is no wisdom, which leads one to question respect. Take for example the entire notion that college changes people. Many believe that college is the time to shed high school antics and drama and begin a fresh life, however, that doesn't just magically happen. The same people whose personalities caused drama or strife in high school will also be entering college, and if there isn't an inherent change in personalities then they're the same in college. It's not as if stepping on the campus ground of a higher institution completely transforms people. It's an ongoing process that the person at hand needs to accept. Same principle: just because someone is growing older does not guarantee wisdom or progress from life experiences. Age should not guarantee respect, at least not in a one-sided manner.
When a child grows in an atmosphere that strictly applies the age-respect ratio, it restricts a growing capability. When elders brush off the words of children, inciting the notion that the "younger you are the more immature you are," then that child grows to be an adult thinking the same. A world filled with adults that believe that the opinions of those younger than them are irrelevant is not one filled with diplomacy. Kids begin to accept at a young age that their voice doesn't matter, which stunts any honest communication within families. The same adults stating that the younger generations have no backbone or can't speak their minds need to question whether they have played a part in crushing that voice. The standard age to respect ratio eliminates creativity and an inquisitive nature, which stops progress.
When this conversation is had, whether internally or with others, one must question what the true intentions are of people. If life is about raising the young to be able to live better, reach further, and accomplish more than the previous generations, doesn't that mean everyone stands to learn something from those who are younger? Being able to discuss issues, accept solutions, and receive insightful questions is a sign that the younger generation is taking further strides. A mutual respect must be accepted so that growth continues.
Constantly telling younger generations that respect must be earned in terms of themselves, yet not with anyone older is a harmful contradicting notion. Avoid contradiction. It is the fodder of lies & regression creating the rush to be mature and killing the imagination of the young. Respect the youthful mind as they respect the elders'. An inquisitive, rebellious, and creative mind is comprised of the very characteristics that paved nations and brought a life filled with advancements in every nature. Aspects of a young mind do not need to stand apart from the aspects of an older mind peering over the line of respect. Intermingling of such aspects nurtures an atmosphere of acceptance, tolerance, and a better understanding of fellow humans.