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.