I’m the reserved type, as in solitude is my preference. Regardless, I did what I felt I could from early on to mingle with and get to know everyone around me. Among my attempts to do this, it was that I went out of my way to visit family friends in my free time and was thankfully able to get along with everyone in general. I’d like to believe it helped that they were happy to know I visited to begin with. As a teen still trying to make sense of everything around me, I couldn’t help but pay attention to the parent-child dynamics whenever I did. Let’s say on one hand, I could feel the children sulk when their parents banned them from certain websites for example, but I guess I was mature enough to see why the parents were so cautious of letting them access those sites to begin with.
Eventually, I got married in my early twenties. I was young enough to still relate and get along with the students around me, but being married meant I could further relate to and get along with other couples and families better too. Sometimes I got to see how these relationships between the parents and children changed as time went on. I learnt stuff. Even though there are other stories I could bring up which bring about a similar point, there’s one in particular that hits hard. It helped me to understand the concept of respect so much clearer, I’m not sure how I could’ve had it shown to me any easier. Let’s start then.
(As usual, out of respect, the conditions won’t be one for one.)
Like Father, Like Son
I’m away from home, visiting a city I was once familiar with and out with friends. You know how rumours happen. You might be lying down, minding your own business, then you hear chatter of such and such. In this case, it was to do between a father and son. Whatever. At that moment in time, I couldn’t tell how much of it was truth, no reason to think I could make it better if it were true, seemed more likely I would’ve made it worse by interfering in someone’s life simply because of a rumour I heard in passing, so I didn’t entertain it. Coincidentally though, while out and about, I bumped into the son of the supposed conflict. He couldn’t help it, he absolutely had to complain about everything that’d happened between him and his dad. You could tell from his voice the pain bleeding out as he described what he called a history of neglect and manipulation, how the dad became distant when the mother passed away and placed every responsibility on him. He pointed out this moment where he was stressed out of his mind with his upcoming exams and how his dad didn’t care to ask except to check if his grades were okay and how he could study better. Apart from that, he argued his dad only ever wanted him around as child labour who could do everything he didn’t want to have to do as a parent. He’d had it in mind that decided enough was enough, he wanted absolutely nothing to do with his dad anymore and was going to leave the home and as far from his dad the instant he got the chance.
Years went by, the son had left the city. Eventually I had the chance to talk to the dad in one of my visits. We’re catching up with each other’s lives and at one point end up touching on his wife’s passing. He became sad. He began to talk about how they used to complement each other, how she was everything he wasn’t and vice versa. He talked about how his wife was always the one who was better at comforting the son, but she always struggled with teaching their son the lessons he needed to get through life, which he was always great at. Right after she died, he came into a number of financial difficulties and had to double down on earning an income, all while struggling with the loss of his wife and the impact it had on his son. He did everything he could, but he’d always come home tired. Sometimes he’d arrive home late at night simply to collapse on his bed with the house a mess and tell himself he’d clean the mess in the house eventually, only to find his son had gone ahead and cleaned it all for him, so he was thankful. He ends up pointing out a moment in which he’s particularly struggling and decides he can’t do this alone anymore, so decides to make some house rules for himself and his son. He tells his son he’s a responsible adult now, that it might be worth cementing some of the roles he has around the house. That’s the moment everything blew up and they had a huge argument. He mentioned how from then on, they became distant and stopped talking altogether.
You’d think that this in itself had so much to reflect on already, but none of this had taken the spotlight for me. Stories are difficult enough to sift through, each side has their own bias to account for if you want to get a clear sense of what’d actually happened and how every moment lead to what it did, but that’s something else. Strangely enough, I didn’t actually prod into either of their lives at any point, they simply offloaded when they saw me with little to no input from me. What truly hit hard for me was what he said in hindsight, after having told me everything that’d happened from his side. He said he still feels angry about his son’s reaction, but at the same time, he couldn’t bring himself to be angry at his son. He said he knew him too well for that; he could see himself in his son. His son saw life as a set of absolutes, so as to say parents are parents, that they shouldn’t fail as parents because they’re parents. All he could bring himself to accept at the end of the day was that his son was a mirror of himself; if he were in his shoes, he would’ve acted the same way.
Acting with Dignity
In this, I better learnt to see the nuances of respect, of patience. Heated conflicts often turn into a struggle to win, but that often means someone has to lose. Not to say that it’s always the fault of the children, but like when a son or daughter outright rebels against a parent, they sometimes try so hard to not be their parents, they end up either falling into the other extreme or failing to recognise themselves repeating the flaws of the parent. If you intend to kill off everything that makes up the other side, you can end up destroying part of yourself too. If you were to insist on an argument about justice versus compassion, only for one side to get the upper hand, the other is often sacrificed in turn, so we’re once again in a matter of extremes. We’re either punishing someone for a mistake out of their control or letting them go for an error they deliberately neglected. I don’t think extremes aren’t something we want to get into. Most times, I get the idea that someone intends to fight, they often intend to destroy too, but this backfires when the other side actually has some meaning to it. There’s this skill in being mindful of what you fight for. We sometimes get into the habit of believing that everything has to be fought for, only to miss that golden opportunity for us to understand one another and smooth out the wrinkles. The idea is only to tackle what’s a hundred percent bad while doing what you can to preserve the good associated with it, otherwise you’re ultimately going to end up harming yourself as collateral.
A Possibility for Prevention
There’s this temptation to view every disagreement as conflict without need. It’s like a parent constantly watching everything you do like a hawk, out of fear you’ll fall into error–it often backfires by stressing the child and prevents them from maturing. When it comes to my thoughts on the prevention of needless conflicts, well, I’ve mentioned before and earlier in this post about how the observation has helped me to understand its possible substitute, patience. Maybe it’s worth viewing the concept of patience in relation to respect. When I say respect, I’m referring to the second type of respect that a simple google web search defines it by,
“Due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others.”
The tempting option can be to straight up tell someone they’re wrong, slap them in the face with proofs and then insist they be stripped of any credibility and authority before they even have a chance to respond. Then again, you could instead ask them how they came to believe what they did, why you believe and feel differently, and allow them an opening with which they can mend themselves–assuming it turns out that they were actually in the wrong to begin with. In doing so, everyone has the chance to be develop, nothing good has to be lost, all while the bad is done away with. In doing so, you’ve preserved their dignity and yours. That attempt to preserve is what leads me to call it as aspect of patience. Afterwards, they can then either choose to build on it or discard it to their own loss. You might not be able to influence that choice any further, but at least now you can’t be faulted for doing what you could to bring out the best in everything.
With all this said, I’m reminded of this verse I’d say is fitting for how I ended everything on,
And [the servants of The Most merciful are] those who do not bear witness to falsehood, and when they pass near ill speech, they pass by with dignity.Qur’an 25:72
Those are some of my thoughts anyhow. Was there something else you took from this instead, any thoughts of your own you wanted to share to do with it?