Young and Old | Love and Respect

I’m sure I’m not alone in having noticed that RB 63 on Community Order, which we finish re-reading today, is interpreted differently according to one’s age group. If one is young and fervent but possibly a little insecure, one will home in on all the points at which Benedict directs the elders of the monastery to show love and kindness to the young. If one is old and fervent but possibly a little insecure, one will home in on all the points at which Benedict directs the young of the community to show respect and kindness to the old. The truth is, as Benedict’s constant reference to Romans 12.10 indicates, love and respect go hand in hand. The danger is that we may forget the mutuality at the heart of community life and sheer weight of numbers may distort how we relate to one another.

That would be a purely monastic concern were it not that in the West we face a major shift in demographics. The old will soon outnumber the young. How we cope with that will reflect what we are as individuals as well as what we are as a society. Government policy will always be affected by what is perceived to be popular with voters. At the moment, elder abuse is a hot topic, and we are rightly shamed by revelations about the ‘care’ meted out in some institutions. But more and more legislation is rarely the answer to anything. Perhaps we should ask questions a little nearer home. How do we see the old/young/people different from ourselves? If we want a society that is truly respectful and caring, there is only one place to start: with ourselves and our own attitudes.


5 thoughts on “Young and Old | Love and Respect”

  1. Viewing those older or younger than ourselves appears to be a bit of a lottery.

    I can well remember as a callow youth of 17+ suggesting to my than boss, who was nearly 40 that he was one of the ‘Bingo generation’ after he’d suggested that we have ‘Housey, Housey’ as it used to be called in our NAAFI Junior Ranks club. This met with a response appropriate at the time, but inappropriate now, a clip around the ear.

    But it demonstrated how far apart our generations between youth and near middle age was in those day, let alone with the elderly. I’d never had any contact with either set of Grand Parents and considered anyone over 60 as so venerable that they were coffin ready.

    How times change? Now just about to reach 65, I’ve had experience of working in lay ministry with those older than myself for the past five years or so – and what a resource they are!! They are a fund of wisdom and experience, a delight to be with and many are both faithful to God, but full of the fun and joy of life. They cope with adversity, a growing list of ailments and impairments with humour and realism. Most lived through the second world war so have a perspective that was shaped in ways that we can barely imagine.

    Most came away, wanting better for their children and grand children, which echoes how I feel about my own, particularly as the eldest grand child is now an adult of 19, with the rest catching up fast.

    Fortunately, we do have love and we can talk to each other without any barriers, perhaps better than I communicated with their parents, as perhaps the communication barriers were between father and child, whilst grand children are lovely, but you can give them back 🙂

    Amongst all of this is love, joy and wonder that the future generations are assured and that we might just despite all of the hoo hah surrounding our young people, be producing a generation who are more aware of themselves, the environment that they live in and how we’re mistreating and exploiting it. They seem to have more caring attitude than I ever did at their age so, there is hope for the future, which with God’s grace, might yet bear fruit in bringing about a better world.

  2. “But more and more legislation is rarely the answer to anything.”

    Tell me about it: I worked at the House of Commons for 36 years – latterly as Clerk of Bills – and frequently watched pieces of legislation going through the system in the certain knowledge that they would either be amended or be replaced with something else within a couple of years.

    There is sometimes good reason for this: for example, as soon as a Finance Bill is published an army of taxation specialists immediately starts devising methods of getting round its provisions – which means that every Finance Bill includes umpteen anti-avoidance measures to patch up the holes in the previous ones. But sometimes, governments of all political persuasions bring forward legislation just because “there ought to be a law against it”: maybe the worst recent(ish) example is the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, recently amended.

    I do wish they’d think first.

  3. I looked up Romans 12.10 out of interest and got carried away with the context. It’s worth quoting here:

    Romans 12:9-13 NIV
    [9] Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. [10] Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. [11] Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. [12] Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. [13] Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

    It’s a good text to take to heart. I’m one of the older insecure types mentioned in the blog, but this scripture encourages me enormously, and I’m impressed by how practical it is too. A text for all ages 🙂

  4. We can learn from each other I hope and pray. My two young grandchildren are reminding me of the joys of childhood in their imaginary games on a rainy afternoon. I hope they will learn patience in waiting for the sun to shine so they can play outside!

  5. I too am encouraged by the youth of today. I teach at a large Catholic high school (in Canada) and am blessed to see acts of kindness and respect demonstrated by students every day. Whether it is a small act of opening a door and offering to help a teacher burdened with books and bags or willingly volunteering to work with those in the community who are in need, their attitudes give me hope!

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