Monday, November 19, 2012
The old adage of treating others as you want yourself to be treated is so true. Why should I expect others to treat me well if I don't treat them with the same level of respect? It doesn't matter what our station is in life; we all deserve to be treated with respect. Whether it is the homeless person on the street, my boss, or my mother I need to treat each and every one of these people with respect. What does being disrespectful really get us other than potential scorn from others? Does it make us feel more important? Does it make us feel better about ourselves?
As a child I was taught from an early age to always respect my elders. Whether it was my grandmother, an elderly neighbor, or a stranger in the grocery store, I was expected to always be respectful to them because they were older. It is respectful to offer a seat to elderly people on the subway, to hold doors for them or perhaps offer to carry their bags. (Heck, these respectful gestures shouldn't be limited to the elderly). On the same hand I was taught to respect the police because, as being in positions of power, they are entitled to such respect. Laws are to be respected because it is these very rules of law that govern and protect our society. It saddens me to see the disregard and disrespect that Albanians and, internationals alike in Albania, demonstrate towards their laws and law enforcement officials. Whether it is illegal parking on the streets, running red lights, or ignoring the police officer directing traffic in the middle of the busy intersection, such disregard for the law is a demonstration of disrespect in its most basic form. From the local Embassy guard force to the police or soldier on the street, all have been empowered by virtue of their positions to enforce the laws. If we don't respect the law what do we respect? How can we be a true civil society without this respect?
Respect can also be a funny thing. You don't have to agree with someone or even like a person in order to respect them. The political arena is a great example of where respect should be a guiding principle. As a nation we can disagree with another country's policies but if they go about their business in an open, honest, orderly way it is hard not to respect them. Whether or not I agree with the President of the United States, as an American citizen I need to show him the respect he is due by virtue of his position. He has earned this expectation of respect because he is the President. At the Embassy we all rise when the Ambassador walks into the room as a way of showing our respect for him and his position. Judges are referred to as "your honor" in recognition of their positions. Mr. President, Minister, Secretary, Ambassador, Honor; the list goes on: these are all titles denoting respect. Simple words that can make a world of difference in the message that is being sent.
In the military respect is the guiding principle that holds the forces together. Weather enlisted or an officer, the higher your rank the more respect that is bestowed on you. (That said, everyone regardless of rank, should be shown respect). Sailors, soldiers, and airmen junior in rank to Glenn must address him as "sir" and he in turn must do the same to those who outrank him. As an officer's spouse, I'm entitled to be accorded with the same level of respect from people my husband outranks as he is. This expectation extends to fellow spouses as well. Archaic or not, whether you agree or disagree, that is just the way it is in the military. (The one quirk I continue to laugh at is when we drive our own car onto a military base. Our blue decals identify the car as being registered to a military officer; regardless of who is driving the vehicle, the guards are supposed to salute. When I questioned Glenn as to why this happens when he isn't in the car he informed me that they aren't saluting me but rather the vehicle. Apparently our car has rank as well)!
Showing respect is neither a sign of agreement nor is it an indication of concurrence. Many times it isn't personal. Rather, it is a sign of manners and an understanding of an awareness of one's situation. The smallest amount of respect can go a long way towards building bridges while the same amount of disrespect can harm relationships- big and small, personal and professional- beyond repair. Really it's an easy thing to do so why don't we all just show each other a little more respect.