Respect

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 Lesson

 

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!

 

Community And Beliefs

I started to write about lessons I have learned from my dad and others in the Greatest Generation. As I did, I realized that our recent series about community (The Value of Community, The Loss of Community, and Building Community) had neglected to discuss a very important lesson that my dad had taught me about community and beliefs.

 

The Story

 

My dad has often talked about the political differences between his father and a particular neighbor. His dad would listen to news commentators and then decide where he stood on an issue. Invariably, this particular neighbor would end up on the opposite side of the issue. So, my grandfather learned never to engage in any conversation on topics that might be controversial or political with that particular neighbor. He didn’t avoid the neighbor or cut off his relationship with him. He simply made sure that they talked about other topics.

 

The Moral of The Story

 

The moral of the story is simple. Community is more important than any set of beliefs. Had these two farmers put their beliefs ahead of their friendship, they would have lost a sense of community. That simple act could have literally split the local community into factions decreasing the overall sense of community.

 

Can you imagine what it would have been like if they stopped supporting and helping each other because of some issue that had two sides? I do know that would have changed my dad’s life and my own.

 

I also know that even back 100 years ago, sometimes people did take sides and it was blown up into a major issue that split the community. One great example was Temperance. Some people believed alcohol was sent from Satan and should never be touched. Meanwhile, others indulged from time to time or at least believed they should have the right to do so. Issues like this did destroy communities at least for a period of time.

 

Today’s Challenge

 

Today it would do us well to remember this lesson. Currently, many relationships and lives are being destroyed simply because two people or two groups disagree. I know of real examples where people will completely avoid or harm other people because of their beliefs. In some cases, they won’t even talk to family because of differences in beliefs.

 

I predict that one day many people will look back on their estrangement from others with regret. Issues come and go as do politicians. Likewise, most people’s beliefs and perspectives change throughout their lifetime. So, to lose contact with family or even community members over such a thing seems to be putting the emphasis on the wrong thing.

 

Diversity of Thought

 

Somehow people have come to feel threatened by diversity of thought. This leads to the question, “What is so important about our beliefs that we are willing to destroy our relationships and our community over them?”

 

Exactly what led to this moment in time is likely a combination of factors. And, frankly, how we got here isn’t the most important thing at this point. Later, humanity can look back and analyze the decisions, schools of thought, and actions that led to this moment.

 

Instead, people should now focus on where do we go from here. One option is to keep things the way they are. If people won’t even talk and aren’t willing to listen, people can never come to an agreement. Thus, greater and greater division will occur among people. There is no way to stop it.

 

On the other hand, if there is a desire to bring people together, the first thing people should do is consider the importance of community. If they believe that humanity and our communities are critical to existence, then they become far more important than any individual belief. Like my grandfather, people will then find ways to coexist in harmony.

 

Second, people need to remember respect. That is one of the keys to my grandfather and his neighbor’s relationship. They disagreed on many topics, but they respected each other as people. Without respect, no community can exist.