How to address an Elder

Respect is necessary when you deal with anyone. Elders should always have the highest respect. That is way I was taught but…….there is an addendum to respect that need to be addressed.

Elders have earned their spot in the family. However what do you do when an elder acts disrespectfully? It is a real thing. I know some elders feel that nothing that is said or done is deemed disrespectful but..I hate to be the bearer of bad news that’s not how it works. Now if a family member has a mind altering disease such as dementia or Alzheimer’s then a pass is inevitable. But there are some elders with no such illnesses but have clearly need some altering adjustments that they missed along the way.

At no time should you get into a conversation where you call anyone out their name regardless of age. Now I’m not going to act as if I haven’t allowed myself to get to that point but is it something that should be? No. In the black community any raising of your voice is disrespectful. If an elder is wrong you aren’t supposed to tell them they are wrong. If an elder is disrespectful their age has earned them this right. This is a yes and a no for me so let me explain.

I believe in giving respect that people put out. If an elder is wrong and gets loud, I may choose to let the elder have that moment. Not everything is worth a response but continued foolery needs to have a conversation or a removal of oneself from the equation until calmer heads can prevail. However it is okay to go back and address it. Sometimes you need a one on one. Once other folks get involved they add more confusion but that doesn’t need to take away from you getting your point across.

Feeling like you have to have an extra level of tact to me only gets extended to parents, grandparents and great Aunts and uncles. Some folks just set in their ways and for me it don’t be worth a lot of energy. Now to regular aunts, cousins, and siblings, we can speak about difficult situations and attempt to work it out. However talking about difficult conversation is not disrespectful. It is not, for the people in the back. I’m not going to call any of them out of their name because I don’t want the same to come to me, but we can have a heavy conversation and work or attempt to work things out. Even in my house my kids know that we as parents we can and have been wrong and we can say sorry.

I tell my kids that aunts, uncles, grandparents etc can be wrong but sometimes don’t expect an apology. Some folks don’t believe that kids can be disrespected because they are kids. I find that message to be wrong but that’s another blog for another day.

Always attempt to be respectful. Always attempt. You can’t help if the other party can go left but do not feel that a person’s title or age or stage is a welcome map for disrespectful behavior. You may have to find tact but no one is above a do better. No one. No one is too old to be wrong. No one is too (insert title) to admit wrong and apologize or to be called out. Even in tact you might find that the person is so upset that you had enough guts to call them out and in that will label you with disrespect. It is what is is. Do your best to show the respect you want to get but don’t get so caught up to think that is what is being shown is wrong because the other members you are up against you have taken a side.

Separate and know is what is being done now is from some unsettled conversations in the past. New issues can be underlying issues from the past. If you have never separated the issues and you are going off on some past hurt that you have never spoken about, calm down and make that known. No one knows what the issue is if you have held it in. Also know that after everything is said and done you may not get an admission of wrong doing. You may never get an apology.

You can proceed in life a few ways, you can continue to come around that person (s) when you’re ready. No one gets to determine the time line for you. You can forgive and move on and attempt to make things different. You can decide it’s not worth it and move on altogether. However regardless of what you do, make sure you attempt to make amends. Amends doesn’t mean your relationship will be the same. It means you walk in peace as you hope they walk in peace.

Don’t let someone you don’t deal with have so much power in your day to day that you talk about the issues, or get mad over and over again and you don’t even have interactions with them. Do you get how crazy that is? You give power to someone who doesn’t pay your bills and for what?! Learn to move as if the forgiveness was granted because you can give yourself permission to be okay.

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