To quote Plato, ‘Youth is wasted on the young.’ Truly, it is. All that vitality and sense of possibility and youthful energy goes to people ill-equipped to fully benefit from it. It is not surprising then that even ancient Greeks were complaining that the youth have lost respect for their elder. Same problem, different millennium. However classic this problem of youthful disrespect of parents may be, it poses a serious societal issue in this day and age. Considering the huge amount of technological, economic, and geopolitical changes afoot currently, society needs a strong moral anchor that enables today’s youth to draw from the collective wisdom of earlier generations. This opportunity is lost when youth don’t respect or honor their parents. How can you learn from your parents if you don’t respect them enough to follow what they advise? How can modern generations benefit from the wisdom of previous generations if they don’t honor their fathers and mothers? This is not a simply academic or sociological issue. Considering the fact that today’s generation needs key survival strategies from the past, this can be a matter of life and death-on a society-wide basis.
The Biblical Command
Regardless of whether you are secular or religious, there is a strong social value to be gained from the biblical injunction to ‘honor your father and mother.’ In fact, the passage in Exodus actually comes with a promise to youth who follow this particular Mosaic command. The verse includes a promise that if you honor your father and mother, you will live a long time. This link between longevity and, implicitly, prosperity with honoring the vessels of past accumulated knowledge highlights the importance of learning from the past and building on previous knowledge. The truth is that we can’t learn everything there is to learn about life, we have to take the word of those who have lived before us. All this accumulated knowledge counts for a lot. Sadly, all this goes out the window when kids don’t even bother to listen to or take their parents seriously.
The social value of respect and tradition
Societies are also organisms. Societies live and breathe based on the social ‘fuel’ that courses through its organs. These are traditions, mores, byways, and norms. These aren’t plucked from the thin blue air. Often, they are arrived at from harsh hard-won experiences. They summarize and encapsulate timeworn coping mechanisms and historical solutions. Again, all these go out the window and we are left to grope in the dark of current experience when kids fail to honor their parents and give due deference to their parents’ advice and experience.
The older you get, the smarter your parents get
Ever notice that as you accumulate more and more of life’s hard lessons and have a lot of lumps and wounds to show for it, that you could have avoided so much drama had you listened to your parents? The truth is that your parents aren’t dishing out all that seemingly hard truths and ‘harsh’ advice you’d rather not hear because they just want to dish it out. They were young before. They wish they didn’t have to give you the advice they are giving you because it doesn’t fit their ideas of an ideal world. Still, they still give you the advice they give you because they care about you. They learned the hard way that these classic truths about human nature, how the world works, and how things turn out were true in their parents’ day, was true in their own day, is true now, and will continue to be true in the future. Imagine how much wiser you would be if you listened to them?