It is often said that the Greatest Generation was great because they went through The Great Depression and World War II. Their greatness, however, comes from something deeper. Individuals and society overall embodied characteristics at the core that led to greatness. In this article, we will discuss the quality of respect.
What Is Respect?
Respect can be defined as giving regard or having a feeling of deep admiration. In this context, the focus is on giving regard to people, places, and things.
When it comes to respect, my dad, a member of the Greatest Generation, has always led by example. Never in my too many years to mention, have I seen my dad be disrespectful to anyone or anything. He has always treated people the way that he would want to be treated no matter how alike or different they were from him. Likewise, he has always treated things the way he would want his things treated.
This behavior was born, in part, of a culture and in part from his family’s values. When you grow up in a large family like my dad did, you learn about diversity of thought and behavior. You learn to embrace differences and treat everyone with respect.
The Greatest Generation
Respect, as shown by the Greatest Generation, showed up in nearly every aspect of life. For instance, at school, children were expected to be respectful to the teacher. If they weren’t, it was almost a guarantee that their parents were going to take the teacher’s side in the matter. You just didn’t treat a teacher poorly even if they were only a couple of years older than you.
Likewise, people treated their neighbors, as they would want to be treated. If they were a different religion, spoke a different language, or had a different political affiliation, they still got help when they needed it. Similarly, one family would never consider ripping down the political banner on a neighbor’s house.
The focus on respect also meant that people respected the country, the military, government officials, the flag, the national anthem, and other symbols of America. It wasn’t that one side or the other was more patriotic. It was that everyone was patriotic. It was part of being an American.
Similarly, respect was prevalent in the business world. A handshake or someone’s word was as good as a written contract. Holding each other in high regard led to loyalty between employers and employees. People were loyal to companies and in turn often had jobs for life.
Respect affected many other aspects of life, such as, dating, marriage, religious worship, the police, and more. However, there were gaps in respect by some people. For instance, some people did not show African Americans the respect they deserved. Thus, it wasn’t perfect, but overall there was a high level of respect.
Lack of Respect
Since the 1950s, the amount of respect shown by people has been steadily decreasing. Various cultural shifts and changes within families led to this decline. Today, the amount of disrespect for people and property has skyrocketed to unbelievable heights.
Today, a significant number of people are not considerate of other people or their property. The on-going riots and looting are simply an act of disrespect. We can argue the reasons that they are occurring, but the fact is that people that hold respect as a value do not behave in this manner.
Likewise, so many people show disrespect to our country, our military, and our history. Although these are more extreme examples, respect is lacking in many other ways. Students and parents no longer show the same level of respect for teachers. Additionally, many businesses don’t have any loyalty or respect for their employees.
The world today has a respect problem. In many cases, people want or demand respect, but they don’t give it to others. It is unclear why anyone feels that they should be able to demand consideration and thoughtfulness from others while at the same time showing disrespect. This is a concept that is foreign to me.
When Aretha Franklin sang, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Find out what it means to me,” she was stating that the man in the song needed to understand what it means to respect the woman in the song. Now, you might not always be able to ask each person in each situation what respect means to them. However, you can define what respect means to you. Once you know what respect means to you, conduct yourself toward people, places, and things in a way that is consistent with that definition – or better!
Remember to get respect, one must act respectful!