I’m discussing relationships between older and younger men on the coaching blog this month. So, I thought we could explore them from an Ifa perspective here. With Ifa’s strong emphasis on ancestral connection, it seems to make sense that relationships between generations might play a similar role in Ifa devotees’ lives.
We turn to our ancestors for wisdom, support, and guidance. In return, we provide perspective and share our learnings with them when we return home after our time on earth. Ideally, a similar flow of energy, and information, can happen between generations while we’re here.
Older generations can share the wisdom and understanding that they have gained through their experiences. This is something we all seem to understand. But, much like with the ancestors, there needs to be give, and take. Our culture creates an attitude among older people that they always have the right answers, that they automatically know more than their youthful counterparts. This may be true in some cases, but in many, it isn’t.
Tensions between generations often arise from disrespect on both sides. Yes, it is important for younger people to understand, and benefit from, the experiences of their elders. But, that only happens with respect. It isn’t reasonable for anyone to demand respect from others that hasn’t been earned. When we dismiss the value of each other’s perspectives respect is impossible.
In the queer community where intergenerational relationships, romantic, and platonic, are more common we need to be even more aware of the cultural biases that divide us. This calls to mind a scene from the Queer as Folk reboot. A young man is at a dinner table surrounded by men at least twenty years older than him. One of them makes a comment about a “tranny”. The young man speaks up and explains that we don’t use that term anymore. He is quickly “put in his place” in a tirade about what our generation went through.
The scene was painful for me. The young man’s perspective was valuable and deserved respect. Something even his boyfriend seemed oblivious to. It’s a simple example of the kind of dismissive attitude that often shows up in inter-generational discussions. Yes, I do understand that this also happens in the other direction. It’s a sure-fire way to shut down connection.
So, if someone older tables an idea that seems old-fashioned or out of step, consider it. Ask them about their perspective and why they feel that way. Explain why you see things differently. If you’re respectful you can agree to disagree. But, you can also both learn from the interaction.
If you’re in a conversation with someone younger and what they’re saying seems naive, or simply ill-informed, rather than jumping in and correcting, take a moment to consider their perspective. See if you can find value in the way they look at things. Sharing your ideas is fine, but do it in a way that respects rather than diminishes them.
Positive interactions of this kind build trust. They allow us to move into deeper connection in spite of our differences. Respectful communication also makes it more likely that either person can trust the other and ask for advice and guidance when they need it. The younger people in my life teach me a lot. Support runs in both directions and opens minds to new ways of looking at some of life’s greatest challenges.