“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned.”
— Mark Twain
That’s true. And funny.
And then there are times when it seems the old guard really has nothing to offer us but judgemental rigidity, opposition, and ballooning irritation … and irrelevance.
Far from the wisdom we may have hoped for, there are times when calls to support ‘traditional values’ (sometimes citing ‘simpler times’ or ‘it never did us any harm’) are merely a thin veil masking ill-founded prejudice.
Sometimes people in power seek to corruptly (tough word, but accurate) shield themselves or other oppressors of ‘the different’ — the ‘out group’. Or (in true Tory tradition) they may seek merely to preserve the existing power structure and privilege.
And sometimes, I’m sorry to report, the driving force in some people’s lives (old or young) appears to be just undeclared personal animosity, or a desire to disguise or conceal weakness or sin (their own or others).
The attainment of grey hair, or miles on the road, it seems, can be accompanied by either
(i) growing love, wisdom, insight, empathy (that word again!) and tolerance of others
(ii) a growing rigidity and intolerance, a sense of entitlement and a desire for obedience in the name of unearned ‘authority’, and demands for acquiescence by others.
To this day, the ‘elders’ I hold the most respect for are those who don’t ask for — nor expect — submission, respect or rank, but who instead aim to build up and serve others in freedom.* I have been very lucky, blessed even, to have such people in my life.
I can’t fully express in words how grateful I am to them for their timely encouragement, wisdom and support. They are a strength to me, even now. I’m so grateful, and so inspired to do my bit, give my gifts, as and when I can.
I wish that for you too.
* Service of others is one goal of a leader. My ex-US Marine friend teaches that the MISSION comes first, then the TEAM and finally the INDIVIDUAL. But he learned that from a mean green killing machine. An approach not necessarily recommended for families.