Today, I woke up and the word “dignity” popped into my head. Looking up the definition, it is “the state or quality of being worthy of honor and respect”. I find that the concept of dignity is a sorely missed element of the characteristics of relationships that people have with one another. And I think about this word in so many different areas of life – my life, the lives of people I care about, the lives of society, or any life.
And I think about this word, in a highly divisive political climate. I have mentioned it on one of my previous blogs – I am a registered republican and have always considered myself a conservative. (I can hear the gasps of air and sudden shock from many of you, right now). But the truth of the matter is that I have changed my mind about a lot of things in the past few years and I think I’m probably a little more aligned with libertarian politics or what is typically thought of as classically liberal (and on some things, like LGBTQ+ rights, I don’t follow the trend of right-wing politics). But without going into detail, suffice it to say that I tend to align myself with the rights of individuals over the rights of the collective – I believe each individual should be able to live their life the way they want to, without the undue influence of any sort of authoritative rule. I believe that as long as a person’s actions do not hurt another person in a direct way, then there is no reason anyone should be forced to live in any way other than how they choose for herself or himself. To me, this is directly related to allowing a person’s individual dignity to be exactly what they want it to be.
But I don’t want to spend a lot of time defining the specifics of my politics, I’m mentioning it, because people no longer respect individuals anymore – everything is “us vs. them” (i.e. #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, #LGBTQ, #FreeSpeech, #FreedomofReligion, Who you voted for, #HealthCare, etc., etc). There is little discourse and only vehement attacks about how wrong people are for not believing what others believe. And the reason this comes to light in my mind is that there are movements of extremism going on all the time. An obvious case of it, exists in the #MeToo that has been trending on Twitter for the past two weeks. And it seems, at least to me, that there is such a problem that women feel they have to ask to be treated with dignity. Why would they even have to ask? And even if they are asking, why is it such a conflict to give it?
I watch the vehement attacks made when people want there to be better scrutiny of sexual harassment. I believe MOST men do not sexually harass women in the workplace, but there is a problem in the fact that it IS an issue. But we are all easily conditioned to accept things as they are. I get it, I’m guilty of it. It’s the path of least resistance. But it has the element of eliminating compassion. And it’s this compassion that is, literally, being begged for by women. To me, it’s similar to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The behavior exhibited by opposing sides demonstrates there is little compassion or little interest in trying to understand how other people feel. To me, it’s obvious – if there was no problem, then we would not hear that there is a problem. Our inability to see it from another person’s point of view does not mean it isn’t a problem. People’s perceptions are their reality – even if it is not mine, nor yours, nor the next person’s. Is it possible to treat a person with dignity, by validating their feelings on something?
I may not have the same opinion as you do about something. But I can appreciate how you feel about it. I put myself in your shoes to understand how it has impacted you and your life. I may not be able to fix anything, I may not be able to solve this problem, but I can listen to it. I may not have ever witnessed sexual harassment, but I can accept that someone else has experienced it. I may not have oppressed someone of another race, but I can accept that someone else has been oppressed by it. I may not have experienced discrimination based on my sexual orientation (In all fairness, I’m not open about my own sexuality, so it makes sense that I haven’t experienced it), but I can appreciate that someone else has faced it. I may not share the same religious faith as you do, but I can appreciate that your beliefs are as important to you as my beliefs are to me.
We are all capable of treating a person with the appropriateness of their individual characters of being, without denigrating the details of their being.
In my book,
This is called dignity.