One of the hardest skills to acquire is the ability to communicate effectively with others. You know, walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and truly understand another viewpoint; even if there is disagreement. This skill once developed, is worth having. It is empathy, compassion and the realization that in the same situation, given the same circumstances your actions or reactions may have been the same.
It is hardest to understand age groups that we have not entered or we have already passed.
With the young, sometimes it is amazing how much immaturity they exhibit. People shake their heads and say, “Can you believe the dumb thing that kid just did?” Immature is exactly who they are and what they are. Many young people do not understand the consequences of their actions because the frontal lobe of their brain has not developed enough for them to think about consequences. Therefore, they try new experiences, even taboo experiences to find out exactly what the outcome will be. That is how they learn to be less immature. As their brain develops, their accumulated knowledge from experience expands and hopefully they become responsible adults. Once they are adults they tend to forget the past and are unable to relate to the new generation of young people. It is a classic, time tested cycle.
With young and middle age adults, much of their time is geared to working to achieve the American dream or their view of a good life. Beautiful families, an upscale neighborhood, a great career, being the best you can be, are all worthwhile goals. Nevertheless, striving is not the fun part and it can create people who are self-centered and myopic in their thinking. In addition, when life goes awry, which does happen, it is hard to accept the fact that the goal that was worth striving for is out of kilter or possibly out of reach. Disappointment creates stress that in turn creates short tempered, rash people, who have a hard time exhibiting warmth and connection with others. This is the time when decisions can turn out to be just plain wrong because of the fear of failure. People who had a strong sense of self can become weaker when stress is amped up or disappointments are piling on.
Then one day a person is old. It sneaks up and it is quite a revelation because although everyone knows we age, actually being old is a completely different ballgame. When you are old, you look old, so immediately people are judging and stereotyping just because they see the wrinkles on the face. When an old person falls or trips, it is immediately assumed that the accident happened because of the person’s age. As if no one young has ever fallen before.
The reality is, in this society the elderly become marginalized. They are not lionized because they are older and wiser; they are pitied because of their inability to survive without help.
An old person who may have spent a lifetime helping others may need to ask others for help just for basic needs like cooking a meal or helping with bathing or walking. This is a very humbling experience and anathema to those who have spent their entire life proud of their self-sufficiency.
Here is what is relatable. Everyone goes through these stages if we live long enough.
A great writer had some wonderful words that encapsulated the stages of life and they are truly words of wisdom.
Lloyd Shearer wrote:
“ No one will ever get out of this world alive. Resolve therefore to maintain a reasonable sense of values.
Resolve to be tender with the young,
Compassionate with the aged,
Sympathetic with the striving and
Tolerant of the weak and the wrong.
Sometime in Life, you will have been all of these.”