What does it mean to treat a person with dignity? What does it mean to treat ourselves with dignity? For many, dignity comes naturally. These folks have a strong sense of self worth and take great pride in their ability to honor themselves and those around them. For others it is quite the opposite. They have an uncomfortable relationship with themselves and routinely treat people in a disrespectful manner. All of us have known people who made fun of or were disrespectful toward disabled people, the homeless or people from different religious, economic and ethnic backgrounds. How we feel about ourselves tends to be a direct reflection of how we view the world. I have often said if you truly desire to experience a person’s true character, observe how they treat the poor, homeless, disabled or uneducated members of our society. Our character tends to shine the brightest when we believe nobody of importance is watching us.
Let’s take closer look at the word DIGNITY. Being a person of dignity means that we are emotionally grounded and are mindful of how our words and actions effect others. It is important to remember that NONE OF US CHOSE THE CIRCUMSTANCES WE WERE BORN INTO.
DIVERSITY. Our world is made up of people from an array of backgrounds and cultures. Our ability to relate to people from different walks of life speaks to our level of our emotional intelligence. Are we open to learning and growing or are we closed and judgmental? Do we judge people at face value or do we take the time to get to know them? What messages are we conveying to our children? Dignity (or lack of) is learned.
IDEOLOGY. All of us hold long standing beliefs. Our current belief system is based on our life experiences. Treating people with dignity means that we are honoring their belief system. We may not agree with their point of view, however, we don’t make them wrong for their beliefs. For example, if a person grew up in a house were violence was a normal means of communication, they likely developed a different relationship (belief system) with the world around them than a person who grew up in a home where they were encouraged to engage in respectful, non violent communication. Seek to understand where the person is coming from. This is a much more dignified, enlightened approach than simply basing our opinion on assumptions.
GRATITUDE. But for the grace of God, I was not born disabled, poor, homeless or unable to obtain a higher education. Because someone was born under a different set of circumstances does not make them any less of a human being. Our ability to be grateful for all of our experiences allows us to be more compassionate toward others. Dignity is grounded in gratitude.
NOBILITY. The dictionary definition of nobility includes the words goodness, decency, honor, integrity, generosity and humility. Need I say more?
IMPERFECTION. No matter how successful we have become or how many material possessions we have collected, we all have imperfections. When we routinely judge others for their perceived “imperfections” we are playing a role in which there is only one CEO. (Chief Enlightenment Officer, who also goes by GOD) Our challenge is to show gratitude for our blessings and show grace to those who are having a more challenging time on the journey. Remember, “when we point a finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at us”.
TOLERANCE. In layman’s terms, tolerance is our ability and willingness to tolerate the opinions, behaviors and “perceived flaws” of others. We can do this even though we may not agree with them. The Ego is always up for a good challenge and for many, this proves to be the ultimate challenge. Letting go of our need to control is an important first step in this process. Listening is the most important skill we can develop. When we really listen to others we can begin to understand their point of view. Again, even if we don’t agree with them we have treated them with dignity.
YOU. I can control my emotions and behaviors and so can YOU. It’s entirely up to YOU to choose whether YOU treat yourself and others with dignity or disdain. Our primary responsibility is to become growth oriented, compassionate people. We can’t do this until we have gained emotional mastery. In other words, we must take our eye off of the outside world and look inward. Those who hold a high regard for dignity know that to see the beauty in others they must first see the beauty that has always resided inside of them.
Here’s to DIGNITY!