In class today, my students and I were discussing Ben Franklin. Franklin is known for many things, but among them was a yearly almanac he published which, in his day, made him as famous as JK Rowling (Harry Potter author) is in our time. In his almanacs, Franklin published many sayings and suggestions about how to be successful.
If you want a vocabulary challenge, take a look at the 13 virtues he thought we should all have in order to reach success: Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Humility, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Tranquility, and Chastity.
All of these have modern synonyms. For example, frugality is another way of saying “not drinking too much.” Industry is another way of saying “being hard-working.” I joked with my students about which virtue they would like as their name since back in those days many parents named their kids after virtues—Silence, Chastity, Justice, etc. (Which one would you choose and why?)
What connects this to today’s blog title is the idea of respect. How do we talk about respecting others?
We often use the noun role model to describe a person we want to imitate. For example, many of my students tell me that their father or mothers are their role models. They admire or think highly of them and want to behave as they do. They want to emulate (or act like) this person. Many people admire Mother Teresa for her charity work with the poor. They want to emulate her selflessness and generosity. Often our role model is someone who works in the same field as we do or someone who is more talented than we are in a skill we admire. Thus, a musician might choose an even more skilled musician as a role model.
We also use the expression look up to when we describe how we feel about our role models. We say look up to because, as in this picture, we put the person on a pedestal—above us—like a statue. We will also talk about trying to live up to his/her example or live up to his/her standards.
Sometimes, people think it’s dangerous to put someone on a pedestal like this because no one is perfect. Everyone has some flaw. Everyone will disappoint us or fall short of perfection in some way.
(What do you think about this? Is it a good or a bad thing to put someone on a pedestal? Have you ever done this? Were you disappointed?)
Finally, when we look up to or respect someone, we might defer to or yield to them when we have to make some decision. (Read our post about “defer to”.) That means we put their opinion above or before our own. We say “whatever you want” because we think they probably know better than we do what is right.