Father’s Day Reflection: On Respect, Honoring, and Looking Again

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and it was a difficult day for me.

It was the first Father’s Day since my own father passed away a few months short months ago of an unidentified disease. I spent the day with my mother, my sister, and my fiance. I’m not gonna lie; I was a hot mess. I felt the loss of my father ever more, and was at times full of heartache, tears, and wishing that things could be different.

But though the day brought fresh waves of grief into the forefront of our hearts and minds, I also had a chance to reflect on what it really means to honor someone on their special day.

2 weeks ago at my last retreat within CTI’s Leadership Program, one of the leaders asked us to treat each other with “respect.” She broke the word down into its roots: “re-“, meaning “again,” and “-spect”, meaning “to look.” She said that to “respect” someone is to be “willing to look again” at them with fresh eyes.

“You’ve all grown a lot the last 10 months,” she said. “Be willing to look at each other as you are today, not as you were 10 months ago.”

What a profound concept. So often in relationships, we develop assumptions and expectations of people, until we stop being curious and open with them. We think they’ll never do anything to surprise us. This is especially true with family, who in most cases comprises of the people who’ve known us the longest.

And what’s worse, it’s not just that our family members fail to see us as the people we are today. We actually show up differently, too. In my college days, I used to get so frustrated with myself, because on my own I’d be totally self-sufficient, responsible, and proactive. Then when I’d go back to my parents’ house to visit, I would find myself slipping back into the listless, admittedly lazy, and spoiled child of yesteryear. No one expected me to show up any differently, and it was easy to slip back into that familiar role and pattern within that familiar context.

The best way we can truly honor the people we love is to respect them–to commit to looking at them again with fresh eyes, and not to move through our relationships with them on auto-pilot. The best relationships are those in which we get to continually show up as our whole selves even as we evolve and grow over time.

Father’s Day, or any other day that honors one of these special people, be it a birthday, an anniversary, or any other celebration–is the perfect opportunity to really put this into practice.

Yesterday, I took my family to Santa Cruz to sit on the beach, and we each told stories of memories we had with my dad. A lot of these stories were ones we all already knew–but in telling those stories again, we treated them with respect. We were able to look again at the experiences, to see them again and fill in some of the details for each other that we’d missed. And most importantly, we were able to truly honor and celebrate my dad, even in his absence.

It was a beautiful moment.

How did you honor and pay respect to the father(s) in your life yesterday? What relationships in your life could use a fresh dose of curiosity and looking again? I’d love to hear stories in the comments, if you have any!

And remember: you don’t have to wait until Father’s Day next year to practice respect and curiosity. Life is short, and every day is an opportunity to connect with the person in front of you.

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9 Comments

  1. A beautiful post, Cindy!

    I think the framing of respect you offer even extends to my relationship with myself. I’ve grown and changed so much that sometimes I have to stop and “look again” to see who I am now, what is important to me, what drives me, and what connects me to others.

    Only by beginning there, can I hope to show up in relationships in a way that is fully heartful and present. That always increases my willingness to see who others are in this moment, regardless of who they have been.

    Thank you again for your beautiful and thought provoking post.

    • Wow, Renata–I absolutely love what you’re saying!

      You’re so right. Just as we slip into roles and limiting beliefs with others, we do it with ourselves all the time. Or we simply operate on old stories that we have about who we are and what’s important to us. All of these concepts of respect, curiosity, and looking again are indeed pointing to our really being present with what is.

      Thank you for adding such a dimension of richness here!

  2. Aimee

    Respect is my favorite word these days and I totally love the insight you write about–looking again with fresh eyes. I found that when I wrote my father’s day card for this year, it finally said something real and authentic, instead of automatic or expected. Sometimes our perspectives are so clouded with other people’s stories or influence that we forget how we really feel, and I think that happens easily with family members and their “roles” they have fallen into. I wrote my card to my dad as a person who I respect and love, and not as someone who we harp on for being attached to his Blackberry or for playing golf too much. 😉

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Aimee!

      I love where you’re pointing when you talk about how “we forget how we really feel.” When we “look again” with openness at someone else, we are also looking inside ourselves again–to allow ourselves to respond to, resonate with, and receive who that person is in a new way.

  3. Izzy

    A very touching post Cindy. I am sorry about your father. It takes courage to reveal such honesty in your writing.

    You brought up a few points in this post that really hit close to home.

    I, like you, have noticed in my past that because I am labeled in a particular manner I act a certain way. When I left college and moved into the professional working world this was really difficult for me. My old college friends saw me in one fashion while my new professional friends saw me in a completely different light.

    Over many years, I have lost touch with many of those college friends simply because we have grown apart. We are no longer the same people and the person I am now can no longer connect with their values.

    I don’t think this is a bad thing at all. I think it is merely how life works. I think the important thing is to recognize when I am growing apart from someone and to be honest about the reasons. Sometimes it is not crazy or complex. It is simply two people who just have grown in a different manner and we no longer connect.

    At the same time, friends (especially the ones from college) who have grown in a similar pattern are the ones I REALLY connect with now. Our friendships and bonds are deeper than they have ever been.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Izzy–I very much appreciate them.

      And you raise a great point. Whether we show up as our authentic selves or not, some people will relate to us easily, and and others will not. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I know from my own past that trying to be the person that I think others want me to be, rather than who I really am, is just no fun.

      Since you can’t win over everyone no matter what you do–might as well be yourself and find the people that you truly connect with, right?

      Thanks for reading!

  4. Will

    Great post Cindy.
    Sorry to hear about your dad. I lost my grandfather about 7 years ago and that event changed my life.

    We’ve all had friends/people come in and out of our lives. I agree with Izzy that some friends you just grow apart from and I used to not be ok with that. But now I am.

    Will

    • Thanks for sharing, and for visiting, Will. It’s true; coping with loss is a part of the human condition–we go through it every day, in large and small ways.

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