I was eight when I committed my first crime of insolence against an adult. A Reverend came calling on my parents and I walked up to him and extended my right hand for a firm handshake. He was aghast.
He gripped my right shoulder and my right hand and attempted to push me to the ground so I could kneel but I wouldn’t budge.
I turned around to walk away but I found my mother’s face plastered with embarrassment and rage. My knees finally wobbled and then buckled.
That night, I picked the weapon that my mother used against my behind. She said she couldn’t stand to raise an uncultured child.
But we don’t kneel to greet people in my culture. So my real crime was that I didn’t give in to the whims of an adult even though he was a stranger.
I was young and now I’m relatively old, and although I don’t know everything, I know that my mother and many parents of past generations got it wrong.
They wanted to raise respectful children. So they stifled any semblance of rebellion against adults. You couldn’t speak freely. You couldn’t question opinions, decisions and instructions. If you were told to jump, you simply asked: “how high?”
Unbeknownst to the parents, what they were promoting wasn’t respect but unquestioning reverence.
Reverence is a dangerous thing. It gives the receiver unequivocal power and authority, which often leads to arrogance and a sense of indispensability. Entire countries have been held hostage by politicians who think that they know best and they can’t stand to be corrected. This is a major ingredient for dictatorship and oppression.
At family level, oppression can come from the fact that a woman can’t stand up for herself against emotional abuse from the father-in-law whose name she is culturally barred from mentioning. Oppression can be in form of the countless episodes of child molestation that go unreported because a child is being violated by the uncle he is supposed to revere so much so that he greets him without looking him in the eye.
When children are brought up to unhesitatingly revere adults or people in positions of authority, they later turn into adult Christians who defend to death their pastors’ right to live luxurious lifestyles off the sweat of their flock.
They turn into complacent adults who live mediocre lives because they have been gagged so they think it’s wrong to challenge or change the norm.
So if God grants me children, I will instill respect but I will be keen on discouraging reverence.
I will tell them to speak up when they feel that they are being misled. I will tell them to question instructions instead of following sheepishly. I will tell my children to speak out and defend their words and actions instead of biting their tongues to protect other people’s egos.
I will tell my children that no one is un doubtable because everyone is fallible.