The quality of worth and honor intrinsic to every person
Dignity—the quality of worth and honor intrinsic to every person—establishes basic entitlements that are the unalienable birthright of every human. It is our intrinsic legitimacy. We are worthy simply because we exist. Dignity is the threshold level of status required to meet basic human needs. It establishes the basic boundaries of humanity. Indignity—trespassing into the territory established by dignity—is the essence of insult, humiliation, and the root of anger, shame, and hate. This trespass is the basic tool of tyranny, oppression, and coercion. All of history is the quest for dignity. We are worthy simply because we are alive; it is a cruel injustice to deny someone their inalienable worth. Dignity is a congruence between the respect we demonstrate and the intrinsic legitimacy of each person.
The intrinsic worth of humans is acknowledged whenever we fawn over newborn babies. Although the infant has not yet accomplished anything, it is universally regarded as precious and worthy of care, attention, and respect. This is the distinction between human being and human doing.
Each dimension of basic dignity needs to be adequately addressed. Compensating for a deficiency in one area by providing abundance in other areas does not work. For example, excess food cannot compensate for a lack of air or autonomy. Denying this leads to many imbalances and disorders, such as excessive eating in a futile attempt to make up for loneliness.
The following chart is an attempt to create a standard, or operational definition, for dignity so it can be described, assessed, and measured. Here basic human dignity is defined by the “Dignity-Human Treatment” column. If a person has everything in that column, they can thrive. If they have less than that, they have fallen into the “Indignity-Inhuman Treatment” column and they lack basic human needs. Levels of comfort and privilege are defined by abundance and even excess beyond the basic needs. While the “haves” in this world struggle to increase their stature, the “have nots” struggle to attain dignity.
Depriving a person of their dignity is a very serous assault and it can unleash powerful passions of anger, vengeance, and vindictiveness in the victim. Humiliation and shame fuel violence. Insults are very dangerous.
|Dignity - Human Treatment
||Indignity - Inhuman Treatment
- Clean air
- Clean water
- Nutritious food
- Personal space
- Personal information
- Freedom of thought and opinion
- Freedom of speech and expression
- Security and safety
- Caring touch
- Recognition by others
- Caring for others
- Cared for by others
- Meaningful work
- Appropriate challenges
- Education and information
- Equal protection of the law
Denied the attributes of dignity.
Depravation; inadequate water, food, shelter,
Inattention, being ignored,
Insult, or Humiliation,
Ridicule, harassment, bullying
Deceit, manipulation, or cheating,
Denied or abridged human rights.
Dignity for Your Self
Dignity is your birthright. Simply because you exist you are worthy and have every right to hold these powerful and profound beliefs about your self:
- I have every right to exist, to live, and to thrive. I am worthy of life. I accept my self.
- All human beings, including me, are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
- My life is important. I have a right and responsibility to live my life to its fullest potential. I have a right to be successful and happy, to feel worthy and deserving, and to request and pursue my needs and wants.
- I am autonomous; I am free to make my own decisions and choose my actions. I hold myself responsible for those decisions and actions.
- I am competent to think for myself, face the basic challenges of life, and succeed at those challenges. I can trust my own mind and my own thoughts.
- I respect myself, I respect you, and I deserve your symmetrical respect of me.
- My life is mine to live, not yours to play with. I am not anyone's property or toy.
- It is OK for me to have fun. Play is essential for development, learning, growth, creativity, and innovation.
- I am lovable, admirable, and powerful.
- My observations and viewpoint are valid. I see what I see and know what I know without requiring further validation. Similarly, your viewpoint is also valid.
- I am free to choose my own beliefs.
- I learn from my mistakes. I am better off admitting and correcting my mistakes than pretending they do not exist.
- I have a right to express myself and I am responsible for what I say, when I say it, and how I say it.
- I was born free of sin.
- I have the right to resist unreasonable trespass.
- “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” ~ The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- “Hunger with dignity is preferable to bread eaten in slavery.” ~ Frantz Fanon
- “The terrible thing about class in our society is that it sets up a contest for dignity.” ~ Richard Sennett
- “Brute force, no matter how strongly applied, can never subdue the basic desire for freedom and dignity.” ~ Gandhi
- “Man – is his dignity.” ~ Simon Soloveychik
- “All of history is the quest for dignity.” ~ Leland R. Beaumont
- “Never take a person's dignity; it is worth everything to them, and nothing to you.” ~ Frank Barron
- “You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.” ~ from the poem Desiderata
- Your freedom ends where mine begins, and mine ends where yours begins.
- “Only a just peace based on the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting.” ~ Barack Obama
Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation, by Edward L. Deci, Richard Flaste
Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank, by Robert W. Fuller
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Breaking ranks: Dignity describing a universal right.
[Sen] The Hidden Injuries of Class, by Richard Sennett, Jonathan Cobb
Dignity, a Wikiversity course.
The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes, by William Ury
Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, by Nathaniel Branden
Fear, Sadness, Anger, Joy, Surprise, Disgust, Contempt, Anger, Envy, Jealousy, Fright, Anxiety, Guilt, Shame, Relief, Hope, Sadness, Depression, Happiness, Pride, Love, Gratitude, Compassion, Aesthetic Experience, Joy, Distress, Happy-for, Sorry-for, Resentment, Gloating, Pride, Shame, Admiration, Reproach, Love, Hate, Hope, Fear, Satisfaction, Relief, Fears-confirmed, Disappointment, Gratification, Gratitude, Anger, Remorse, power, dominance, stature, relationships