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Thoughts of the Lady in the Tower

2004-06-06 - 9:28 p.m.

The subject of discussion last night was "Deference." Here are some thoughts...

Richard writes of deference in his Joining the Household letter. He characterizes it as one of the hardest medieval concepts for us (modern Americans) to learn, and I think he's right. Many people who wonder at their lack of advancement and recognition in the SCA simply lack this skill.

I gained a large amount of understanding of the Pelicans one night by listening to three peers converse on the subject. Deference meant that I LISTENED (I was the one sitting there who WASN'T a peer!). I recognized that socially (in the context of the SCA), these people are my superiors and I can learn from them. So I did.

I've seen other people in similar situations interrupt and demand to be heard . . . and the conversation drifts to other topics. The person without deference lost that opportunity to learn. Their knowledge of the workings of our Society is lessened, and thus they do not understand when they have been passed over for this award, a seat at high table, or an invitation to that tourney.

To practice deference, there has to be a recognition of WHAT your social status is, and this, too, is hard for many modern Americans.

The most obvious structure to determine rank is the SCA award structure. Either someone is a peer, or they aren't.

Except that that system has failures, too. We all know stories of peers who aren't and peers that have not been recognized. My general rule of thumb is to treat them as their rank indicates OR ABOVE if by their actions they have warranted my respect.

And I think it's acceptable to show different amounts of deference to the same person in different situations. When Syr Richard discusses fighting, I defer to him, but when we're discussing clothing I rarely ever defer (generally only if we're discussing what HE is to wear).

Deference is linked to respect, but not the same.

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary states:

Deference marks an inclination to yield one's opinion, and to acquiesce in the sentiments of another in preference to one's own. Respect marks the estimation that we have for another, which makes us look to him as worthy of high confidence for the qualities of his mind and heart. Reverence denotes a mingling of fear with a high degree of respect and esteem. Age, rank, dignity, and personal merit call for deference; respect should be paid to the wise and good; reverence is due to God, to the authors of our being, and to the sanctity of the laws.

Deference is called for in situations where respect for that person may not be present. Do it anyway!

Another part of last night's discussion was that I get a lot of Richard's opinion on stuff . . . but not a lot of anyone else's. Livejournal discussion helps, but it's not quite the same. I'd love to start bi-monthly coffee house style (directed) discussions, but I'm afraid things are too politically charged right now to do so. Bah.