Did you know that the UK Prime-minister has a weekly meeting with their monarch? This meeting is to give the monarch the ‘lay of the land’ as they discuss government business together. Until recently, of course, that monarch was Queen Elizabeth II, a woman who lived to the fantastic age of 96 and ruled as queen over the UK and Commonwealth for over 70 years.
This got me thinking about wisdom and all we have to glean from older people with more life experience. Do we pay our elders enough attention, respecting them and being prepared to listen to their views and thoughts? I’m not sure we do. As a culture, we seem pretty youth orientated. Of course, children are our future but have we stopped listening to the older adults in the present?
The young of every generation has always rebelled against the establishment, ergo their elders. Still, it feels like this is ever more prevalent in recent years. The UK Brexit issue is a case in point of how some of our younger folk discounted the older generations, notably the Boomers, and stated that the future wasn’t theirs, so they shouldn’t be shaping it for them. (As a Gen X’er, I did feel somewhat pushed out of the debate and ignored despite having many years left to invest in the future!) It wasn’t that long ago that our world leaders were nodding their heads vigorously at a (now famous) teenage environmentalist whilst she told them off like a mother of naughty schoolchildren. Of course, I’m not suggesting that what she had to say wasn’t, and isn’t, valid. Still, it seemed her youth, passion and anger were more worthy of attention than some older heads saying the same thing but much more constructively and graciously.
Knowledge and wisdom aren’t the same things. In fact, there is a saying that goes, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” This saying expresses the idea that a small amount of knowledge can mislead people into thinking that they are more of an expert than they really are, leading to mistakes. We can know many things, but without that sprinkling of wisdom, we can misapply it.
The Christian Bible has a lot to say about wisdom. For example, there’s a line in the book of Job (understood by some to be the oldest book of the Bible ironically) which reads: “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” – Job 12:12. Are we looking to those who are “lengthier in days” and asking for the advice? Are we asking for their wisdom and taking on board what they have to offer?
In her role as monarch, Queen Elizabeth II had a right to call her prime minister to attend the weekly meetings. Still, by all reports, it seems that every prime minister felt those meetings were necessary and valuable. They gained insights and ideas they may not have come to by themselves or their government Cabinet. As the years rolled on, I imagine the wisdom given by the monarch only increased, with the most recent prime ministers benefiting the most.
Whilst we should always champion the young and encourage and empower them, we should never forget those who are older. They have so much still yet to offer. However, as a society, we seem to want to cart our elders off to the ‘old people’s home’ sooner rather than later. In some cases, there’s even an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality. I can only hope that my children see me as someone as a fountain of wisdom from which they can drink. Sure, I don’t know the answer to everything, and obviously, I never will, but I hope what I can give has thoughtfulness running through it. And as I age, I pray wisdom increases, as it already has over my last 47 years. The advice on many things I would have given you as a hot-headed, sure of himself, 20-year-old would be so different from what you receive now. With that in mind, I make sure that I look to my elders with the same expectation, that they have something valuable to give me and that I will make time for them. Respecting them and bowing to the wisdom of their years.
Important note: Please know that what I have written is full of generalisations; not every young or older person will respond and act in the ways I have listed. But generalisations become these for a reason, so don’t throw them out without examining why. And whilst you’re thinking through what you have just read, I will take some solace from Proverbs 16:31, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.”
“I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.”
(Song: Greatest Love of All / Artist: Whitney Houston)