• Published
  • By Master Sgt. David Ernst
  • First Sergeant, 932 Aerospace Medicine Flight

Respect is more than a word

I was driving by my son's grade school a few months ago and saw on the billboard that the word of the month was "respect." I was impressed that the school took the time to work with our kids in developing these values in addition to developing them academically. I realized that it's never too early to learn about respect and that as events change in our lives we are constantly faced with changing relationships that demand reevaluation of this basic principle. I also realized how easily it is to confuse respect with authority and how easy it is to lose it.

Wikipedia defines respect as: "the objective, unbiased consideration and regard for the rights, values, beliefs and property of all people." This means that without any regard to people's differences or how we may personally feel about someone, everyone is due the same respect from one another. We don't necessarily have to be friends with everyone, but should encourage an atmosphere of mutual respect. Rank or position has nothing to do with respect; though both are earned, only rank can be taken away. Respect is lost from inattention and carelessness and once lost is much more difficult to regain than the authority associated with rank alone.

We have likely all worked for someone whom we were to show respect for their position or authority. A supervisor early in my military career comes to mind. I wonder how much more effective I would have been then had I been given the common respect I deserved. I contrast that memory with thoughts of other leaders whom I would do anything in the world for completely out of the trust and admiration fostered by the shared respect of our relationship. My challenge for all ranks is to emulate those who have treated you with fairness and respect. It is equally important to remember the qualities in those who didn't and commit to not repeating their mistakes.

David Ernst
First Sergeant, 932 Aerospace Medicine Flight