I am, generally speaking, a political conservative. Perhaps not all the time, but more often than not, I fall to the right side of the spectrum. When I’m on Twitter, which is quite often, I intentionally follow people who I don’t agree with when it comes to our political views. Why? For two reasons: (a) because if you want to convince or persuade someone that your way is better, as you see it, it helps to understand where they’re coming from; (b) you never know when you might learn something from another person’s perspective. Surely it won’t hurt you to understand a point of view different from your own. In fact, it might just make you a better person.

The reason I bring that up is to preface this story: A good friend of mine, and someone I have been known to have plenty of intense discussions (disagreements) with, Jennifer Bhagia (@littlebrownjen), sent a tweet the other day that really struck a cord with me. She tweeted, “How dare people call themselves patriots while teaching their children to disrespect their DEMOCRATIC FREELY ELECTED LEADER?”

I couldn’t agree more. You don’t have to agree with someone to have respect for them, or in this case the office they hold. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t agree with everything that President Obama or his administration is doing, but that’s irrelevant when it comes to the level of respect I have for him. You may not respect his personal views, opinions, or policies, but it’s absolutely imperative that you respect the office that he holds as the President of the United States and the subsequent authority that comes long with it.

This idea of respect without regard for your opinion is taught heavily in the military. Civilians, however, have a horrible grasp of it. We fail to make the distinction between the office, rank or authority that a person carries and who that person is; that’s an important distinction to understand. If your commanding officer orders you to do something, you do it. Period. Not because you agree with it, that’s irrelevant, but because you were asked by a superior to do so. It’s out of respect for the position they hold and the authority it carries that you follow through.

Having respect for a person, not their authority, can often be hindered by our disagreement with their personal views. However, I’m a huge believer that the fact that we don’t agree on everything should keep us from working together on what we do agree on. If we had to agree on everything before working with someone, we wouldn’t get anything done. When I first heard Rick Warren articulate that concept there was a light bulb that went off in my brain. I may not agree with the liberals or the Muslims or the Jews, but we can work together for the good of humanity. Don’t let disagreement over one issue cloud your ability to work together with someone.

[For more from Stuart McDonald, check out his personal blog and follow him on Twitter]

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