Age Is Just A Number; It Doesn’t Automatically Gain You My Respect

Here’s an in-depth discussion of a concept that many people tend to perceive incorrectly

By Brielle Sparacino

As members of Generations Y and Z, we’re used to stating our personal opinions, values, and beliefs on social media and projecting them onto our family members around the holidays or at family functions. For the most part, we have distinctly separated ourselves from our parents’ and grandparents’ generations through the ideas we’ve chosen to support as well as the knowledge we’ve obtained, but unfortunately, many parents tend to be much more conservative and old-fashioned when it comes to certain issues. Our parents and relatives who are much older than we are also tend to play the “authority” card when discussing a particular topic. For example, I’ve had a close relative essentially tell my friends and I that because she’s older, she has more knowledge when it comes to politics and world views, when in reality, it seems that my friends and I are the ones who are more informed than she is about what’s been going on in regards to our country’s current political standing.

I know I’m not the only individual who feels maddened when they encounter this kind of situation. Sure, your Great-Aunt Sue could be one of the sweetest people you know, but when it comes down to it, she still believes in gender roles and talks about how gay people are going to Hell at Sunday dinner. You desperately want to disagree with her and tell her how drastically times have changed from when she was a young girl, but you know you’re going to face the backlash from every other family member at the table about “respecting your elders.”

What does “respecting your elders” have to do with correcting someone about the ways of the modern world? It’s never made sense to me. You can have respect and admiration for your elders, but that doesn’t mean they’re always right. There is countless evidence from the Bible that prove gay people were never shunned by Jesus Christ or God himself (for all of those extremely conservative Christians out there), and there are enough living examples of progressive couples who share housework (and don’t degrade their partner based on worn-out stereotypes about the opposite sex) to put your Aunt Sue’s hurtful and incorrect opinions to shame.

The problem with Generation X and the Baby Boomers is that while some have become reformed individuals who embrace new ways of thinking and doing things, many choose to remain ignorant about issues and situations that have been given different, usually better perspectives. Millennials are taught certain ways of thinking by their parents, but many tend to be more accepting of things that their elders just aren’t. For instance, I’ve encountered quite a number of people who have conservative views on certain issues, but they don’t let their views get in the way of someone else’s more liberal views (like my own), and they respect the other person’s beliefs instead of attempting to change their mind.

What ever happened to “let’s just agree to disagree” for that matter? Because of age apparently being such a deciding factor when it comes to real-life scenarios, there has got to be a time to call it quits in the middle of a heated argument. You don’t have to agree with your parent, guardian, or relative to respect them. You can simply decide not to waste your time explaining a well-crafted argument to someone who truthfully does not care to listen to it.

The next time you happen to encounter a situation like this, keep this piece of advice in the back of your mind: respecting someone does not equate to agreeing with them if you know/believe they’re wrong. You have your values and they have theirs, and if you’re both set in your ways, it’s completely okay to agree to disagree. Disagreeing on an issue doesn’t mean you have to lose or gain any more respect for that person than you already have. You’ve got to respect someone else on your own terms. Not because they’re a family member or a close friend, but because respect must always be earned, not given.


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