*a 5 min read*
The quote below is a lesson that was taught to me from a very young age which still holds weight to this day.
“Wisdom comes with age, so respect your elders”
While the statement above may seem clear and short, there is plenty to breakdown and discuss. If we look at it in its simplest form, we can interpret the same quote above as the following: People who are older than us have gone through experiences and events that shape their everyday makeup. Either good or bad, their lives have been a roller coaster where they have learned, failed, and evolved throughout the years. With all of the encounters they have had, wisdom is one of the valuable tools that remain at the end of it all, with the ability to differentiate wise decisions from foolish ones and the comprehension to act accordingly to a given situation (wow, that was a mouthful). So, now we have a general understanding of how wisdom comes with age. But why should we care?
As I am a part of the younger generation (in my early 20’s), I do believe it is viable to learn life skills as early as possible to prepare you for how the world will look and treat you in the future. The earlier you learn, the more prepared you are, and the easier it is to have the confidence and ability to handle what the world throws at you.
You may have heard people call someone wise beyond their years or very mature for their age. This all relates to the experiences and moments that have happened in one’s life. People mature faster when extreme situations enable us to act in a certain way. From there, the teachings we encounter and the observations we make stay with us and continue our growth as people.
So if wisdom comes with age, why do many of us disregard the teachings and understandings of the people before us? The saying of “respect your elders” has been lost in translation for many years now. And in this new era of technology and social media, it seems like many of our parents’ old-school ways of doing things may be very outdated (flip phones are still cool though). Older ways of thinking are seen as non-applicable in the modern-day, which may be why the older generations’ words are muted. But let’s look at it from a broader view, and dive deeper into the meaning of respecting our elders and the wisdom that comes with them.
The Value Of Wisdom
Believe me, when I tell you, you can never have too much wisdom. As bold as that statement sounds (ha, literally), hear me out. Having wisdom doesn’t mean you will have all the answers and know exactly what to do in every single instance. Instead, wisdom gives us the ability to act accordingly with our knowledge, understanding, and experiences, helping us form our way of thinking. In a world of quick pleasure and desire for instant gratification, wisdom is the tool we can all use to justify our actions and avoid making the same mistakes time and time again.
If your parents have never told you “be quiet” or “shhrupp, you are talking too much,” you are part of an elite group. We have all been in a situation where speaking less is far more appropriate than speaking more. Often occurring in many social settings, topics can be sensitive or delicate and how you respond to them will be tested. The opportunity to get involved and give your opinion is there, but do you necessarily have to?
We can refer to the following action as “reading the room.” Sometimes, it’s better to just stay quiet, nod your head and gracefully move on with the rest of your day. Whether you are on your phone or out in public, you can repeat the steps just mentioned. The timing is key here, as you have to approach the situation delicately. You don’t have to engage in everything you see or hear. The message is in the words. Read, scan, and observe the whole “room” because it grants you a wider perspective of what is going on around you. The ability to read the room is a classic case of wisdom and will be necessary for your life, no matter what age you are.
Observing a situation and acting accordingly comes with time. You may have to learn very quickly or after being told to be quiet by your mum a bunch of times. But, reading the room is an indication of how you evaluate other people’s opinions. You have to take a step back and consider the feelings of others before putting your opinion first all the time.
Reading the room is just one of the many types of generational lessons that can be passed down through the grapevine. Yet, there is still a belief that ignoring lessons such as reading the room is outdated or non-applicable today. Why is that?
Modern Day Perspective
You may help out your older relatives with their phones, emails, computers, etc. It’s easy to think we know more than people much older than us because of how much of a helping hand we lend to them to figure out the new ways of the world. You may think that their earlier ways of doing things don’t relate to what we go through now. Or that they can’t help us through difficult situations because “it’s a different time now, they just don’t get it.” It’s understandable and yes, the times have changed, but there are still valuable lessons we can learn from previous generations that will never die.
Because you know more about technology doesn’t equate to us knowing more about life. That’s a big no (a big, big one), and we are lucky to have people before us who have navigated through the ins and outs of the world. Take the early advice many of us have received from many of our elders, such as who to hang around with and how to conduct yourself in public.
The best summary of that advice that I think we can all agree with is: surround yourself with good people and don’t act a fool in public. Surrounded by good people? More likely to be a happier and more productive person. Not acting a fool in public? Decrease your chances of being caught doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Make it make sense. The words are straightforward and plain, but the meaning behind it explains everything we need to know.
The One Liner
“When I was your age” is a line that immediately turns most of us off. It’s similar to You zone out and your mind focuses on when the next Derin Falana album is coming out (phenomenal music artist if you don’t know him, check the link down below). It happens all the time, as you feel whatever they say holds little merit to you as a person. But when an older person says “when I was your age or my advice to you is…” – this is when we should be the most attentive to what they have to say. It’s an invitation to free knowledge, free experiences, and free wisdom (it’s free, you might as well take it).
It’s your choice whether or not to take in what your elders have to say, but giving them a willing ear to listen is more beneficial for us in the long term. A senior perspective shouldn’t be looked at as a deterrent but as a method of assistance and guidance. More often than not, it comes from a good place and a good heart, so there’s no harm in hearing them out. Plus, how many times have you said “I should have listened to such and such” in retrospect? Before it’s too late, give it a chance. You never know what you can learn from someone else, no matter their age.
Respect Your Elders
Someone who has been through ups and downs can contribute something useful in your life. Whether it’s a small gesture or a highly impactful tool in your everyday activities, be open to what they have to say. I wrote this with the intention that we all self reflect on how we take in our elders’ words and the wisdom they dish out to us. I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to add any useful advice you have received from your elders in the comment section below.
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