One of the things I try very hard to get my young son to realize is that he has a choice of reacting or responding to situations that are presented to him. To illustrate the difference in my seminars I use another example…when your doctor describes how the medication he has prescribed is working, would you rather him say you are responding to the medication or reacting to it?
In the case of our own human behavior, in the face of certain situations and opportunities, we must make the choice of whether to respond or to react. Reaction is often based on passion and enthusiasm – which is not always bad; but response if more often the result of reflection and logic – which often comes from the wisdom of age and experience.
There are many benefits of youth we are told. We are especially told this by the young. They are faster and stronger. They are more able to make adjustments and change course. They have a keener grasp of technology and how to apply it. The energy of their youth alone makes them a powerful force to be reckoned with; many times accomplishing things through sheer will and determination.
By contrast, our elders would remind us that it is only though time and experience that we gain true wisdom. They have tried things and failed things and tried something else. Through their experiences they have built things and improved things. As they got older they learned the importance of crafting the appropriate and most effective response, rather than the most ready and passionate reaction.
The battle of the generations is as old as human beings themselves. Who hasn’t heard the stories of ancient practices of leaving the elderly to die when they became too old to hunt and gather or provide value to the tribe? And I can remember reading a rhetorical speech in my high school Latin class about how the Ancient Roman society was deteriorating because the youth wasn’t listening to their elders.
Let us also not forget, however, that age is very much relative. I love the fact that in the span of one week I may find myself amongst young teenagers who consider me the “old” mother figure who may – in their minds – be out of touch with what’s going on in the world; yet I then become the youngun’ who is so up on technology and “new” ways of doing things when I am with people old enough to be my parents.
My husband often chuckles when he recalls an exchange between himself and a fellow Masonic brother of his. This gentleman would often make references to my husband being a “young man” and my husband would remind him that he was in his late forties. To which the gentleman would reply, I’m in my eighties, so to me you are a young man.
Taking us back to the two bulls of our joke above…let us not be too bull-headed to see the benefits of those generations to which we are not a member. Embrace the fact that in some circles you will be the wise and mature veteran, while in another you may be the energetic and innovative young person. Your place in society is relative. So remember, no matter which group you find yourself in, learn to appreciate the gifts and wisdom of others; for you would like the same from others when you find yourself in the opposite position.