The worst thing anyone can take from any other is their dignity.
Dignity is defined, across the board, as “being worthy of respect,” and when you think about it, offering another human being your respect, and therefore dignity, is the ultimate accolade. However, I feel, that far too often, respect and dignity are two sides of the coin of expectation. We cannot count on others to respect our feelings, needs, wants or perspectives, simply because we respect theirs, in much the same way that being a good person doesn’t mean that you will, yourself, be well treated.
Each of us only has control over how we act, and behave, and to whom we defer our respect. We either accept them as they are or walk away.
We can turn the other cheek of course, but why should we?
Mother Teresa wrote of practising humility as a means of garnering respect and offering dignity to those feeling they have none. “Speak as little as possible of yourself,” she wrote, encouraging the consideration of the life, obligations and circumstances of others.
“Mind your own business,” she advised, as the privacy and confidentialities of others are theirs, and theirs alone. Seniority, for example, either maturity or position, offers no guarantee of superior business, commercial or financial acumen.
“Accept corrections and contradictions cheerfully, accept slights, forgetfulness, insults and injury, and even the dislike of others,” accepting that mistakes do occur, that people are as often right as wrong, and that no-one has a mortgage on perfection. She urges kindness and gentility, and advises us not to parade or stand on our dignity, but to be aware of it, and to use it to sustain us in times of difficulty.
Dignity is not about possessing honour but deserving it.
Charles Finney once wrote that we, mankind, are “base, pathetic and vulgar animals,” who, without acknowledging what he called, “the truth. Stark?” saying that it was ,very simple, and that there is no such thing as, “the dignity of man”. I disagree strongly. But I do accept that sometimes the actions and decisions of the ‘few’ could easily bring me to his perspective. Sometimes it is indeed just all about seeing yourself as a more aware individual and valuing yourself higher than any frustration you may feel.
Belief doesn’t make you a better person, while behaviour certainly does.
Employees are frequently reminded of their obligations. In fact, I’ve been a party to reminding employees of their obligations so often that it has probably earned me a reputation as something of a martinet. However, in those supervisory contexts, I have, on reflection, found it simple to evade, obscure or ‘sweep under the carpet’ the obligations of my own office or position.
Just thinking about it now, I’m certain that employment situations, based as they are on an obligation to work, lack any dignity at all, unless it is developed over time, by mutually respectful, words, deeds and behaviour.
So, it’s important to recognize that without dignity, people cannot be heard.
First of all, if society doesn’t accord respect, it offers no dignity, and secondly, without dignity, none will speak out, for they know their opinions will not be heard or valued, even though what they would say, may well be the final piece of the jigsaw.
Thosten Bunde Veblen was described, humorously, as a ‘witty critic of capitalism,’ who postulated the concept of ‘conspicuous capitalism,’ implying that we commonly purchase things simply to demonstrate wealth or social status. But he implied a knowledge of the abstract needs of man too, saying employees want, “pride and joy in doing good work, a sense of making or doing something beautiful or useful, to be treated with respect and dignity.”
‘A fool has pride without dignity. A wise man, dignity without pride.’ — Confucius.