How to Be Respectful: Listen, Forget Yourself and Forgive

Soldiers saluting

“There is only one thing a person needs to be happy in this life and that is to be respected for who they are.” 1st SGT Dogood


It was late in the day when I knocked on my dad’s door. I hadn’t seen him in a few weeks, so I was eager to be in his company. As a Vietnam Veteran, he preferred solitude, but I had an in. “The door is always open to you,” he has assured me. My dad retired from the Army as a First Sergeant back in the 1980s. He had trained thousands of soldiers. Despite his age and the hardships that accompany a war veteran, he stood tall with a commanding presence. I had already told him on the phone why I was there and true to fashion, he didn’t waste any time.

“To be respectful you need to do just three things: Listen. Forget yourself. Forgive.”

I had asked him to tell me his thoughts on what it meant to be respectful. If anyone knew about what it meant, it was him. This hardened leader of men and women didn’t mince words:



To respect people, you first have to listen and observe them. Find out all you can. The more you know, the better you will be able to serve them. Accept them for who they are. 


Forget Yourself

In basic training, I trained more than bodies. I had to restructure their minds. To do this, I had to break them down --I had to shut them up. They spoke when I told them to speak and moved when I told them to move. An untrained mind is like an untrained dog, a useless nuisance to society. I had to teach them to forget who they were and their problems so they could more clearly understand the mission, to serve. 



Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness. When training a person on how to die for their country, they have to accept those who not only revere them but also despise them, including those individuals who belittle their sacrifices --the carrion of society who burn their nation’s flag. When a soldier forgives, peace is possible, and so is change. 


My dad went on to tell me other stories of his life of service and lessons learned along the way, unfortunately, some of those tales included words I just can’t share in print --he may not have been in the Navy, but I could hear the sailor in him. As I stood up to return home, he called my name and I turned to look back at him. “Thank you for listening to me.”  I grinned knowingly. I rode home summarizing what he had shared, “Respect means listening, forgetting yourself, and hoping for a person’s ability to change for the better.”


Contributed by Angelica Mecham