Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday Guest Post "Right is right! Wrong is wrong! No matter how old we are!" By Sandra Bryan

Sandra Bryan

I enjoy singing, dancing, playing the bass guitar, and watching movies. I am an avid football, baseball and basketball mom. I am very active in my church (I sing in the adult choir, play bass for the youth choir, and I'm the Asst. Youth Director). I also do a lot of voluntary work in the community.

Right is right! Wrong is wrong! No matter how old we are!

“Experience they say is the best teacher but does it make you above mistakes. How come we respect elders and their opinions so much even when we know they are humans like us, so they are fallible?”

Take three, four, five and six! Yes, that’s how many times I’ve put pen to paper (or should I say, fingers to keyboard!) in an attempt to put out this post. I have followed Rose's blog from the beginning, and I have been in awe of her capabilities to express her “food for thought,” and “life lessons.” Many times she has broached topics that I have questioned myself on. Her insight has left me relieved in knowing that I am not as crazy as people have made me out to be. When Rose asked me to appear as a guest writer on her blog, I was very hesitant; not due to a lack of subjects, but because I wasn't sure if I’d be able to arrange my thoughts and pen them in a clear and comprehensible manner. As I sit here for the umpteenth time, I find that my initial fears were founded. Indeed, there are so many things I want to talk about, that I’m finding it very hard to focus on one topic without veering off into left field. So, let’s hope that take six is the one.

Before I go any further, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Sandra, I grew up in Belgium, but I’m originally from England. I currently live in a small town in Northeast Louisiana, about four hours from New Orleans. How did I get here you may ask? Well, as in most things in life, a man was involved. Indeed, I married my American crush, and we have three wonderful sons together. Moving to the US was an adventure in itself. Unlike most of my friends in Belgium, I was not hooked on all things American; and I most certainly did not aspire to find myself an American husband and live the American dream. So much for that huh! It didn't take me long to adjust to my new environment and make the South my home. However, there are some things I will most probably never get used to, and many questions I will continue to ponder on.

The other day I was listening to my favorite comedian on the radio. He asked the question; “should older people be allowed to say whatever they feel just because they are older?” At the time he had me in stitches with his anecdotes of his grandmother and the things she would say to people. I’m sure we all have an older person in our family who does not hold their tongue, and says whatever comes to mind regardless of the effects of their words. Personally, I have a great-aunt of whom everyone in my family is afraid, because she terrorizes everybody with her words and actions. Growing up I couldn't understand why everyone just sat back and took the abuse. But I guess it stems from the “respect your elders” upbringing that was prevalent. Now here’s where I have a little trouble. I am from the “respect your elders” generation, and I agree that children should adhere to this at all times. Nevertheless, I also believe that this respect should go in both directions. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines respect as; “the condition of being esteemed or honored. To consider worthy of high regard.” Respect plays a very important role in our everyday lives. From an early age, one is taught the principles of respect in order to function in society. We are expected to respect our parents, teachers, authority figures, and elders. However, in this day and age we find this principle dwindling, and many are left wondering why. Of course, we can enter into a debate about modern day parenting, education, discipline, etc., but here is my take on it.

As a child, I could not comprehend my great-aunt’s behavior and the total oblivion being afforded to her by the adults in her midst. In my mind, I secretly questioned the validity of the whole respect thing. I understood - well not really - let's say I grudgingly accepted that as a child I had no say in the matter. But, I could not for the life of me, conceive that grown ups would let themselves be insulted and treated with such disregard. When I came of age, I respectfully called my great-aunt out on her behavior indicating that I would not put up with her tongue lashings, and be bullied into doing things her way just because she was older than me. I don’t know if my forthrightness put her in a state of shock, but from then on I became her “favorite” (until we fell out for good!). I also inherited the role of spokesperson for other family members.

So, here I am many years later in my new hometown, surrounded by a diverse age-group of people. I work with children on a daily basis and I have adopted numerous aunties along the way. I found a church home and fulfilled my childhood dream of singing in a gospel choir. Here’s where I start having flashbacks! A lot of the older ladies are very outspoken, which in itself is not a problem. However, at times their comments can be very offensive. I've witnessed them sack kids out and chase potential church members away with their remarks. When I first pointed this out, I was told: “oh, that’s Ms. So-and-So, that’s how she is. Just ignore her; she’s old, blah, blah, blah.” Just like with my great-aunt, everyone was turning a blind eye. Try as I may, I could not let it go. Maybe it is the “defender of the underdog” quality that I acquired at a young age that would not allow me to just sit back and ignore certain events. Once again, I found myself respectfully letting a couple of these ladies know that their behavior was reprehensible and detrimental to the well-being of our congregation (especially the younger members).

I said all of the above to say this. I do not believe that the adult/senior/elder status keeps a person's “respect path” open indefinitely. On the one hand we are taught to apply the respect principle at all times. Then on the other hand we are told to treat others the way we want to be treated. For a lot of people, especially the young folks, that is where the confusion comes in. I have heard many kids say “why should Ms. So-and-So get my respect when she talks down to me?” or “why should I show respect to Mr. Man when he obviously doesn't give two hoots about me?” I can totally empathize with this reasoning, because I have also asked these questions at some point in my life. The maturity level of this new generation is way more advanced than that of my generation. Queries are made at a much younger age; therefore, the “because I said so” precept gets challenged at every turn, especially when it is in contradiction with the fundamentals of respect. How can one hold another in esteem, when it is blatantly obvious that this honor is not reciprocated?

As adults we have to lead by example, and not impose our will upon others just because we can. We have to be willing to satisfy the inquisitive minds of our youth and not condemn them for asking questions or disagreeing with our thoughts. We must remember that words have an everlasting impression on a person's being; therefore, we must choose them wisely. I believe respect is given automatically, but once it is lost, it has to be earned to be retrieved. Being older than someone does not mean one cannot lose their respect. It most certainly, does not give one authority to talk down or verbally abuse one's younger counterpart. I don't believe that being older, gives a person the right to voice one's opinion wherever, whenever or in whatever manner. How can we expect to cultivate positivity within the younger generation, if all we spew is negativity while hiding behind our seniority? How can we expect our youth to have self-respect, if we do not show them a minimum of respect? Let us be mindful of our words and actions, so we don’t become the butt of the next radio host's jokes. Right is right, wrong is wrong, no matter how old we are!

Picture courtesy of The Vecci Blog


  1. Dear Sandra,
    Thank you so much for sharing with us your perspective on this important subject that is respect! The way I was brought up taught me that respect in general and (definitely toward our elders) should be given as they've earned it through mapping the years prior to us. And although I totally agree of this way of thinking, I also believe respect is quite subjective. Everyone should be entitled to a basic level of respect, which is what one could see as common courtesy. Failure to reciprocate regardless of who you are should result in loss of that respect. There's a difference between giving a person respect and respecting a person because they have admirable qualities that engender a respectful attitude in others.
    With that being said it is very important that we as parent teach our children the value of our elders and what they have brought into our lives and continue to bring BUT it is also important to teach them that the value and respect they bestowed don't have to be blindly upheld. As human being we need to respect each other as a person, respect each other opinions, and this regardless of age, race, hierarchy, or beliefs…
    Sandra your title sums it all up “Right is right, wrong is wrong, no matter how old we are” and I will add “no matter who you are”…

    1. Sandra Bryan EllisNovember 1, 2012 at 2:37 PM

      Thanks Rose for allowing me to share my food for thoughts. I am deeply honored by your invitation and your kind consideration. Although we've known each other for many years through mutual friends and activities; we have never really had a chance to sit down and converse. Through your blog, I've found that we have a lot of thoughts in common. In this new place I now call home, it is nice to have a familiar "pied d'attache" from back home.

  2. Love this post! I completely agree with you, that respect is not something that just comes with the territory; it must be earned. No luxury passes for people, just because they may have a head full of grey hair!

    1. Thanks Just Elvin,
      For many years I thought something was wrong with me because I totally did not feel that respect was a unilateral courtesy to be bestowed upon a person just because of their age or position in life. As Rose mentioned in her post, we were taught to afford this "common courtesy." However, I always felt that if it was not given in return then that would be my cue to either remove myself from the presence of the person/person's concerned, or let them know how they were affecting me.

      I thank you for reading my post, and taking time out to comment.
      Sandra Ellis aka Sandra Bryan-Ellis


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