March 15, 2016
Respecting Your Parents and Standing Up for Yourself

Indonesians are taught to always respect the elder and to obey their parents. But what happens when parents don't always know best?

by Dixie
Issues // Politics and Society
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Having been born and grown up in this country, I was raised with Indonesian values drilled in me. The two that are emphasized over and over again – which clearly shows their great importance – are to respect people who are older than you, and to obey your parents. By “obeying”, it means never say or do anything against their will.

Those are great values, although not the best, in my opinion. There are flaws in these values, and although some Indonesians may disagree with me, what I’m about to say is something that I have seen far too often to the point of normalcy.

I am a strong believer that you should respect people regardless their age, race, gender, position. You should respect people who are older than you, yes, but what about the younger people? The problem with this value is that it leads people to believe that younger people don’t deserve respect as much respect as older ones. Same goes with people with power. Once I saw a high-ranking colleague in my office treating a janitor with such arrogance, but when he faced his boss, he turned nice and humble.

Safe to say if you see someone whose mannerisms are polar opposite depending on the status of the people they face, then they don’t deserve respect. It reminds me of a quote by J.K. Rowling, whom I admire for her brilliance and astuteness: “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

Her words best sum up my take on this matter.




Society tells us that respecting parents means having to obey them, but I find these two things entirely exclusive. Take my relationship with my parents, for example.

At the best of times, we get along fine, but every now and then we clash and things get uncomfortable for us. There are matters that we bicker about, and whenever it gets out of hand, I can only chalk it down to my father’s stubbornness, which I unfortunately inherit. But there’s a big difference between us: while I’m very open to opinions contrasting mine, my father, sadly, is not.

Throughout my childhood I had put up with his way, getting used to not speaking up my opinions and just agreeing to what he wanted. God forbid we should argue. But when I went to college, I became more courageous, which I might owe to newfound freedom living away from home.

It was during this time that we had the first huge fight in our entire father-daughter relationship. The house that he picked for me (yes, it was him who decided  where I should live) didn’t give me the best advantage. Its too-early curfew was a problem because I often had to work late for projects and assignments, and the fact that it was really far from my campus didn’t help.

I gave him all these rationales and tried to talk him into letting me move to a new place, which could better accommodate my needs, but he was having none of it. He shut me down instantly, not even bothering to let me further explain why I needed to move. I spent months and months trying to convince him calmly, and in the end I gave up. It was impossible to have a healthy argument with him. Not when he always yelled at me, cutting whatever I was saying and reducing frustrated me to tears.

I didn’t talk to him for a few months after that, until he gave me the green light to move.

Recently, it happened again, but in this case, it’s a far bigger, more personal thing: my decision to get married. One night, my boyfriend and I told my parents about our plan, and he laughed and told us to wait another year, saying we were not ready for such thing. We gave him reasons, we tried to convince him, but he didn’t budge.

Needless to say, I was outraged. Not only did he belittle my boyfriend, he also had no right whatsoever to decide what we should do. Getting married is a personal decision for my boyfriend and I to decide, but he stepped in and ruined what should have been the happiest day for us.

I am fully aware he did that with the best of intentions, but sometimes, he couldn’t (still can’t) see the whole picture. In the fight about the house, he failed to see how I missed out on so many things, due to living in a place that was far and had no flexibility on its curfew, consequently making me have the worst year in college.

On the fight about my getting married, he can’t see how my boyfriend and I have thoroughly planned this, that we feel so sure about this, and how much burden and misery he imposes upon us. He leaves no room for explanation, discussion, and compromise.

And that’s how I see many Indonesian parents behave. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how you’ve grown up and become an adult. For them, as long as they’re still alive, they’re entitled to have a say about every single matter of your life because they think parents know best.

In reality, it’s not always like that. In fact, often parents don’t know best. But the values drilled in us often give us incessant guilt for saying or doing anything against their will, even if it’s for our own happiness.

I used to be like that, but I’m not anymore.

I have realized that what’s important is my happiness, and it’s not bad to pursue that. Ideally, I wouldn’t have to go against my parents to achieve my own happiness, but sometimes I have to, and I have learned that this is okay. That standing my ground and arguing with them doesn’t mean I’m a bad.

I can imagine that I may be judged by society as a bad daughter for disobeying them, but the most important thing is I have absolutely no intention to cause any harm. I don’t do this to hurt them. I’m just pursuing what I think is right for me, because I believe I know myself better than anyone does, even my parents.

And there’s nothing wrong with doing things my way to be happy.

Dixie is an Indonesian who often finds herself straining not to say offensive things by Indonesian standards. She enjoys solitude, and is often thought as anti-social owing to her lack of activity in social media. In her spare time, she does photography, storytelling, and rant on her blog, http://herlittlejournal.com'