If there is one issue that seems to cause tension between older and younger leaders, it’s the issue or respect (or sometimes lack there of). It causes issues between teens and adults, older and younger youth, pastors and congregations, husbands and wives. Respect causes issues. Should we expect and demand respect? Should I be respected by my peers, by my kids, by my readers and by others?
I worked for many years as a Substitute teacher while I served as a youth pastor and one class was rude to the previous substitute. They had to write an essay on respect, what it is and when to show it. I read over the answers and they were very interesting. Many said things about not knowing what respect is because no one has ever respected them. They were angry when they wrote about respect and it got me thinking about the way we model and show respect, and what we expect in return.
I am the last of the Gen Xers. My parents were leading edge boomers, my dad was a bit of a hippie in the 60s. Ok, he was a lot of a hippie, and he was discharged from the army for this opinion of authority. As I get older, I work with a lot of trailing edge boomers, many of them are leaders, supervisors, pastors and authorities. I have found that Boomers, both LEDs and TREBs desire very much to be respected, but have a hard time showing it. Sure, they showed respect to others to their face, but growing up that isn’t what we saw. We saw the older generation respecting people to their face and grumbling about them behind their back. We were raised by the generation who use to say “never trust anyone over 30” and now they are over 30.
My generation, the Buster generation, we behave a little different. The Boomers could be respectful when they had too, and then talk about what an idiot their boss, supervisor, mayor, congressman, governor, etc. . . was behind their back. When you boss is there, you say “yes sir” and when he leaves you tell your buddy “he’s a moron”. The busters, we don’t do so well at that. When the boss walks in, we tend to say “you’re a moron” because we value that authenticity. When a Boomer gets called a moron by a Buster, bad things occur, and they feel disrespected and a speech ensures about how when the Boomer was younger he respected his elders. We were there, we were standing in the door way with our blankets, we saw how you respected your elders until they were gone.
Now I’m the parent and my kids are watching how I treat elders. They have seen me at my good times and my bad times. There are people who I struggle to respect, let alone show respect too. I should respect them, but I think they are wrong about everything, makes it hard. The words of those High School students ring in my ears, “No one has ever shown me any respect” and it’s probably true. Each generation has a tendency to look down on and be critical of those behind us. As my kids watch me and how I act, will they respect me when they are older?
I think there are some things we need to focus on and change, especially in the church. We need to learn to respectfully disagree. You all know how people have acted in light of recent theological discussions. We don’t respectfully disagree, and the younger generations see that. We need to learn to be gracious to those who disagree, and even those who disrespect us. Jesus didn’t demand to be respected, He didn’t demand the honor that was due Him, so why do we? I am a sinner, saved by grace and I should be humble and gracious. Demanding to be respected and throwing a tantrum when I am not is neither gracious or humble.
We need to learn to show respect and honor to others more than we demand it ourselves. We need to be aware the next generation is watching us, and we need to ensure we respect them, because they are valuable. Show respect to your students, to your kids, to those who you supervise and have authority over. If Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, the least we can do it be gracious to others.