26 February 2010

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Tell Me What it Means to Me.

Is "respect" a relative term?

In every school at which I've taught, "respect" was a central theme or value. At my last school, it was incoporated into almost every school activity.

It is also one of the core tenets of Army life. The seven Army values are:
1. Loyalty
2. Duty
3. Respect
4. Selfless Service
5. Honor
6. Integrity
7. Personal Courage

Obviously, then, respect is held in high regard in the ways of the warrior. If a neat mnenomic started with the letter "R," we might see respect at the top of the list.

But number three ain't bad. So, what does it mean? According to the party line, "respect" means to "treat people as they should be treated." The Initial Entry Training Soldiers Handbook goes on to read:

"In the Soldier's Code, we pledge to treat others with dignity and respect and expect others to do the same. Respect to a Soldier simply means treating people as they should be treated. It means giving others the same consideration we would like or expect to be given."

Those are wonderful words to live by. Yet there are so many times that I've seen it violated, often by those with rank.

I was once standing around with a SGT and a SSG just shooting the bull, when along came a Soldier with his hands comfortably and quite deviantly in his pockets. The staff sergeant bristled and mustered up a delightfully devilish mind to correct the Soldier with an NCO's flare.

"What rank is he?" he asked as he squinted toward the tiny insignia on his target's chest.

It turned out that the offending Soldier was a lieutenant, outranking the vigilant sergeant. "High enough ranking to walk around with his hands in his pockets in front of me," the NCO admitted.

"That's pretty hypocritical," I thought. This guy, whom I like, I might add, was all ready to yell at somebody, only if he had rank on the guy. Is that respect? Wouldn't a courteous reminder of proper Army protocol be more prudent, for all ranks?

Of course that's not the way it works. Respect is a relative term.

As it is in almost every facet of life. I call my spiritual leader by his title, not his name. When a principal talks, students listen a bit more nervously than when it's a teacher. Senators refer to the Commander in Chief as "Mr. President," not Barack. Yes, there is etiquette. But just because Obama outranks McCain doesn't mean he ought to talk down to him. We should all look to respect others for their innate diginity and worth as fellow workers, citizens, and people.

Church, work, family, and school-- all would benefit from a healthy dose of genuine respect.

The Army organization would certainly run much more smoothly if we all followed the Soldier's Handbook.


  1. I agree. Respect should always be a mutual thing and not relative to rank, office, or position. To abuse a position of power and intentionally be condescending to anyone is a reflection of your own inadequacies. Positions of power and influence are a test of charter. Honorable people use power to help and serve others.
    On the same hand, the amount of respect that you give to, or receive from others is subject to individual perception, and consequently people often opt to feel disrespected when no disrespect was intended.
    Being offended is a choice, and what some choose to take offense at others choose not to let it offended them.

  2. The first line of the NCO creed is "no one is more professional than I " ...have we as members of the NCO corps forgotten what that means? Do we do what's right for the Soldiers in our charge? If the answer is no than we not only have disrespected the corps but we disrespect all of those around and before us