Maybe I’m just getting old. Not since my twenties have I found myself feeling so disrespected by those younger. In fact, I have made it a point not to be so hung up on respect. Let me start with my late twenties.
In my late twenties I began working in the field of substance abuse, basically as a mental health technician at an adolescent rehabilitation center (for those uninitiated in this terminology, that’s simply a glorified babysitter. I would make sure they brushed their teeth, went to the required activities, went, and stayed in bed). I would talk to them when they had a crisis, and this was the beginning of my counseling career. One of my predominant feelings during the first two years I held this job was how disrespectful the adolescents were to me. I don’t mean that they were constantly disrespectful, but there were periods where the disrespect was readily apparent. It seemed to most often occur when I needed something to be done, and the individual refused to do it. It was my expectation that because I was in a position of authority the request or demand would simply be done. Instead, I was met with disrespectful words and refusal.
As part of my supervision I would discuss this, and eventually my supervisor suggested that my demand for respect was probably an unrealistic expectation and that I should likely stop demanding it. He also challenged me as to what my desire for respect might be about.
In response to this I worked on not expecting respect. As I studied Eastern philosophy the tenet of humility was cultivated. Although no one really describes me as humble, I do try my best not to take myself too seriously, and, and yes this sounds contradictory, I pride myself on not demanding respect. (Pride stands in a somewhat oppositional position to humility). But lately I’m beginning to wonder what is going on.
Recently I had a serious and relationship damaging disagreement with a family member. The central tenet to the disagreement was an issue of respect, at least for me. I can say with certainty neither of us liked the way the other spoke to them. Recently I have been challenged three times in as many days about grades I provided on a paper. The most recent was in response to my comment “Way too many commas, especially in the last two paragraphs.” It started with the line, and I quote, “The commas are part of writing.” Now perhaps I’m being sensitive, but this sounds a bit condescending. It may be important to note this was in response to a grade of 93.
Recently a client who was attending his last session told me the next generation (for he and I that is those in their early twenties) has less morals as a consequence of reality TV. He encouraged me to do research and write a book about this phenomenon. He discussed briefly how “The Bachelor” and “Survivor” reward contestants for manipulating, lying, cheating, and/or backstabbing. In an article from about a year ago I discussed the phenomenon of cheating and asked my readers for their beliefs about contributors. I also pointed to politicians and how many making big money lie until cornered, then admit the truth. Perhaps my client has a point, and reality television is corroding the values of young adults. Perhaps there is a correlation between this decrease in morals / traditional values and the recent feeling of disrespect I experienced. Or, perhaps even more likely and as I suggested in the title, I’m just getting old. I recently read this quote that I would like to conclude with: “Children nowadays are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers.” – Socrates, 425 B.C