If you’re like me1, you may not usually be known by your 2 honorifics. In my case, retirement has meant the loss of some of them because I don’t have a 3 job title any more. My education doesn’t extend to the PhD level, nor have my peers elected me to 4 honor-laden roles.
This is not a problem—there are 5 other ways to confer honor in the words we use. Recently I have remembered that seniors like you and i are also shown respect by the simple-but-deserved designations 6 “Mrs.,” “Mr.” or “Ms.”
When I was younger, I learned to address anyone older than me with one of those titles. “A sign of respect,” my parents told me. As the years have passed, I have noticed how those polite terms are now attached to me—as in “Good morning, Mister Sitze!”
Usually uttered by young adults, these monikers have sometimes bothered me. What would come to mind: “I’m not that old!” or “Hey, just call me Bob!” I didn’t need to be honored—I just wanted to be known.
But over time I have realized again that the simplest honorifics—see above— attached to my name and identity are a sure sign that the speaker or writer actually considers me worthy of respect. “Mister” is not an ageist put-down, but instead a certain, sturdy title that I can accept with gratitude, understanding that I’m not invisible, ordinary or 7 unworthy.
And you? What do folks attach to your name to show courtesy and respect? How do you accept these titles so that those who honor you know that you’re grateful? Perhaps most important: How do you live up to that high regard so that others can follow your example?
Remember: Like me, you’re honored, for sure!
1 And I know I am….
2 An honorific is a title or designation whose utterance confers honor, respect, admiration and respect on someone. Honorifics are adjectival in nature—e.g., the esteemed Ginny/Ronny or Esquire—and can also stand alone as nouns—as in Princess, Doctor, Reverend or Grandma.
3 In my last profession, I started as a Resource Specialist and eventually became a Director. I had hoped for Highly Exalted Poobah….
4 I will never be known as Senator, Trustee or Former President.
5 As in “For a bald guy, you sure don’t sweat much.”
6 In some parts of the country, Sir and Ma’am are also common.
7 For theologically inclined readers: Yes, of course I am always unworthy—a worm and no man—and therefore always grateful for God’s grace and love.