Tradition in Being True to Yourself
In September’s Conversation Group, Tradition came up as a topic in connection with being true to one’s self.
Tradition is important. Its role is to pass on the best of what we have learnt about our values from one generation to the next. By living it and sharing it. Tradition plays a significant role in bringing a community together as well, through celebrating rituals that mark change such as the moon cycle and the new year, and events that marked a major change in history such as Anzac day or the birth of a prominent figure, so we don’t forget the values they stood for.
However, whilst tradition plays a role within a certain set of circumstances, best practices have to adapt when those circumstances change.
Following rituals and lifestyles that are no longer relevant lead to conflict and separation within families and communities. For example, in the past the son often followed the occupation of the father. People lived in joint families. Women often married and became home makers. All these were significant and had a place.
The fathers passed on their knowledge to their sons. There were no high schools or universities. This was the way. People lived in joint families because having large families was useful to have more hands on deck to enjoy a valuable support system, scale up businesses and have influence. Women became homemakers because they were traditionally viewed as the child-bearers and nurturers while men were seen as the hunter gatherers.
The purpose of these traditions were to make life easier and more purposeful. Not create boxes. Today, not all men wish to follow in their father’s footsteps. They have access to higher education to learn new occupations and diverse places to work in. Families prefer to live in smaller units. That has merits and challenges, because while there is more freedom of choice, a solid support system is missing. Not all women wish to get married and/or have children, and many love to explore their individuality and maybe build careers where they can enjoy and thrive.
So if you find yourself in a situation where you are an elder and wish for someone younger to follow your view of tradition, or if you are someone younger who feels burdened by the expectations of your elders to follow their view of tradition, look at the purpose of that tradition. What was its original intent? Does it still matter? Can a bridge be built so it works in the present?
For example, if you feel your daughter “should” get married. And she wants to explore the world, have a successful career, and put off marriage until she wants it. Ask yourself, why do you wish for your daughter to get married. Is it because you wish for her to have security? After all, in the past marriage meant financial security because the husband brought in the income while the wife took care of the home. Or do you wish for her to get married because you want to see your grandchildren so you have a sense of family continuity?
What if you accept that your daughter is able to earn enough to look after herself? And perhaps her focus in a partner is not just income, but a relationship of mutual acceptance, care and trust? Or what if having a spouse and/or children does not give her the freedom to explore who she would like to be or what she would like to do?
The point is, you cannot impose your expectations on another. And you can’t dismiss tradition either because it had a purpose in a specific time and place, which has helped us arrive to who we are and where we are now. However, if you are a friend to your daughter and someone who sees her view, it might change things. And she might learn to respect the value of tradition. A bridge can be built.
There will always be some conflict between tradition and the present. It is part of how we recognize the need to grow and evolve. And it’s a great opportunity to build bridges through acceptance, understanding and revaluation. The past, though over, can help us create a new future that continues to build on the best of who we are while avoiding the previous pitfalls.
If you can, without expectation, see someone that you care about based on their view of themselves and share your insight and support without imposition, both of you can benefit.