Miss Zust’s First Lesson in Good Manners: Grant Autonomy to Others.
Autonomy def.: self rule, from the Greek. The ability of a person to decide for themselves those things that concern themselves. For example: Edward violated Bella’s autonomy by making on his own, decisions that concerned the both of them. (Defined according to the Abridged & Practical Diction of Sare Liz.)
When my dear friend Miss Zust was just a little girl, her first lesson in good manners from her Quite Upper Crust grandmother was to address others as they wish to be addressed, not as you think they ought to be, or as you might like to address them. For a child, this is a revolutionary thought – it invites a child out of the world spinning around them, and into the low earth orbit of someone else long enough to acknowledge, if not understand, that the entire Multi-verse does not operate under the Gospel According to That Child, but that other people want, desire, and require different things. Fast on the heels of this, and along the same line was learning to, as a hostess, serve the food that your guests at the least can stomach and will not have a morally or physiologically adverse reaction to, and at best serve the food your guests actually prefer. All of this boils down to granting autonomy to others. If Miss Zust actually prefers to be called Canon Zust and has made that wish known, I will respect her wishes and not persist in calling her Mother Zust, as she is childless and a member of Generation X, and regardless of the fact that she’s an ordained priest it just freaks her out. I will respect her autonomous wish instead of repeatedly making her skin crawl and eventually her blood boil by doing the thing she hates, in reference to her own person.
And really, nobody wants boiling blood; not even vampires.
But what about the outliers in our pool of worthy examples? What about Edward & Bella – here we have a supposed surfeit of wisdom and experience on one side of a relational equation and a deficit of the same on the other. How does the more experienced respect the autonomy of the other? Simple answer: by doing it. More complex answer: by doing it, and always, always making the situation and possible consequences as plain and comprehensible as possible, thereby facilitating the act of wise decision-making; a faculty all of us require and few of us foster in others. I make no comment on how many of us may or may not have such a faculty on retainer to begin with.
But shall I end the blogpost in snark? Nay.
Regardless of whether or not we had parents, teachers, or mentors who helped us to make wise decisions and right actions, this doesn’t actually matter in the least. What matters, and certainly matters most is how we, right now, you and I, choose to treat others. Our history bears upon this moment only insofar as our willingness to repeat it, or try something different. So, how will you, as a person in position of power – over yourself and others – choose to interact with those others? Will you grant the people around you the autonomy that they, as human beings, deserve? What will that look like? If they lack your experience or understanding, will moment of granting be indefinitely deferred, or will it include a brief outtake for teaching? Will you let your past rule your present? Will I?