insubstantiality of our character or ‘what happened to dignity?’

——

“Cowardice” and “self-respect” have largely disappeared from public discourse.

dignity proud

In their place we are offered “self-esteem” as the bellwether of success and a proxy for dignity.

“Self-respect” implies that one recognizes standards, and judges oneself worthy by the degree to which one lives up to them.

“Self-esteem” simply means that one feels good about oneself.”

Dignity” used to refer to the self-mastery and fortitude with which a person conducted himself in the face of life’s vicissitudes and the boorish behavior of others.

Now, judging by campus speech codes, dignity requires that we never encounter a discouraging word and that others be coerced into acting respectfully, evidently on the assumption that we are powerless to prevent our degradation if exposed to the demeaning behavior of others.

These are signposts proclaiming the insubstantiality of our character, the hollowness of our souls.

=

A NATION OF COWARDS


Jeffrey R. Snyder 1993

———————–

“Tragedy in life normally comes with betrayal and compromise, and trading on your integrity and not having dignity in life.

That’s really where failure comes.”

=

Tom Cochrane

———————-

 

dignity in search of

 

 

So.

 

 

 

What is the biggest failure in today’s world?

 

 

What is the biggest tragedy <or possibly ‘travesty’> in today’s world?

 

 

In my mind …. it is quite possibly our betrayal of integrity and dignity.

 

 

 

It could quite possibly be the fact we have shelved dignity to some dusty shelf all the while proclaiming the insubstantiality of our character, the hollowness of our souls.

 

 

 

Look.

 

I am a hope guy … but on occasion I look around the world and find hope buried underneath a lot of despair. Or certainly buried under a lot of ‘less than desirable’ behavior by people.

 

 

And while it is easy to seek blame in politicians and leadership and religion … it is harder, but possibly a truer and more valuable exercise, to look at ourselves and individual action.

 

 

And within looking at ourselves, undertaking this personal reflection, one has to wonder about dignity in today’s society.

 

 

The idea of dignity seems simple enough.

 

 

But it is actually fairly complex.

 

 

——

dignity:

“elevation of character, intrinsic worth, excellence… nobleness of manner, aspect, or style.”

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

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Blackboard In Room

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Words associated with dignity:

“prestige, esteem, repute, honor, glory, renown, fame”

Roget’s Thesaurus

dignity word cloud

——–

Well.

As I think about dignity … I’m fairly sure <or it feels this way> but I think the meaning of dignity has shifted over time.

Oh.

I don’t mean this as a generational thing … I just mean it as … over the span of decades … dignity is being defined, and thought of, differently.

 

 

 

I cannot figure out why because while dignity is certainly timeless … it seems to be more associated with a look or even a ‘dated’ aspect.

 

 

 

To me dignity should be unshifting.

 

It should be a conviction with regard to how one lives, and values, Life.

 

 

To me it retains a belief of a some higher potential of acting within some moral excellence construct. Something that resonates throughout everyone’s actions.

 

 

 

Am I too idealistic?

 

 

Do I ask too much of people?

 

 

Yet … what I think I ask of people … what is Life if not meant to be faced with dignity?

 

 

 

In fact.

Dignity seems, to me, to be of higher value than wisdom or enlightenment or even respect. Dignity is part of the soul of which resides within each of us … it represents the substantialness of individual character.

 

 

In other words … it is the foundation upon which all else is built.

 

 

And it is a foundation which one could argue provides the strength to face the inevitable of Life.dignity emerson

 

 

 

Life is often is a battle against the inevitable.

 

 

And feel free and define inevitable any way you would like.

 

 

 

Regardless.

 

 

To face the fate Life gives us is to have the courage to live even if it means not doing everything that everyone else expects we should have done, and even ourselves might have wished, and do so with perhaps more dignity … than wisdom.

 

 

Now.

 

 

To be clear when I discuss this betrayal to dignity … to me … we have surrendered our sense of dignity … it was not taken away.

 

 

———–

“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”

=

Michael J. Fox

——————-

 

 

Suffice it to say we have surrendered in the most despicable way … we have become silent with regard to dignity.

 

 

Yes. Silent. We just don’t speak about dignity often these days.

 

 

And without speaking … the silence has become overcome with other words & thoughts.

 

 

Words & thoughts like wealth and power, success and fame.

 

 

These are selfish esteem characteristics <or selfish aspects of character>. They are outcomes of behavior not outcomes of character. And, yet, I sometimes believe we confuse the outcomes.

 

 

As one online writer said … “we have become convinced we are nothing but packets of protoplasm governed by selfish genes, clever monkeys with college degrees and business cards plying across highways rather than trees.”

 

 

I don’t argue that living in today’s world that it isn’t difficult to activate your selfish genes. The world almost demands you do <’no one will take care of yourself but yourself’>.

 

 

 

But by permitting the selfish genes to take over we have foregone some very important Life aspects.

 

 

Things like:

 

Living with dignity.dignity destiny beg

Dignity of actions.

Dignity of attitude.

Dignity of self.

 

 

 

And while it certainly seems like we are in a ‘selfish driven world’ <or at least an “I-driven” world> … when I think about dignity <which I imagine I do far too often> … I admit that I am a little surprised that dignity has fallen down so far on our list of ‘desired character attributes.’

 

 

 

Why am I surprised?

 

 

 

Well.

 

 

Getting back to the “I-driven” world … dignity, at its core, is closely connected with the idea of individuality. It is associated with how one sees oneself as well as how one reflects upon one’s distinctness, or clarity of self as seen by others, in Life.

 

And I, or self reflection, is a pretty powerful motivator with regard to character.

 

 

 

 

Individuality means self-control and self-mastery, freedom from the sway of passion and prejudice, the ability to actively determine oneself.

 

 

 

 

In fact … I could suggest that to live with dignity means to be one’s own master.

 

Ruler of your own empire as it were.

 

 

Unfortunately Life is infringing on all our “I” objectives.  It seems like the grind of everyday Life is making us think less of our own ‘empire’ <that would be our character and self respect> and more about what we think of as ‘survival’ <just making it through the day>.

 

 

That is scary to me.

 

Scary for not only civilization but scary with regard to … well … one’s soul.

 

 

 

Sure.

 

 

Discussing dignity may sound strange <if not frivolous> in today’s world when our frantic struggle to make ends meet hardly allows us the time to ponder such lofty things.

 

 

But if we do pause a moment to give this question a little thought, we would realize soon enough that it is not merely the idle musing of someone with too much time on his hands.

The question not only touches on the very meaning of our lives, but goes even beyond us personally in that it impacts culture.

dignity shrink grow

 

 

 

For if it isn’t possible to live with dignity then life is simply measured by outcomes < wealth and power, success and fame>.

 

 

 

I find it hard to imagine that the sense of the idea of living with dignity doesn’t have some intrinsic value to who and what we are as people.

 

 

—–

So many roads, so much at stake

So many dead ends, I’m at the edge of the lake

Sometimes I wonder what it’s gonna take

To find dignity.

=

Bob Dylan

—-

 

 

Look.

 

 

I know Life is far from simple.

 

 

And ‘dignity’ is challenged daily by a Life that is difficult and complex and filled with conflicts <decisions and choices> and moral ambiguity.

 

 

Every day, even though we may only see our ‘to do list’, we face numerous crossroad moments each of which offer a potential step toward either good or bad <evil>. And often you cannot see down the path you have just taken a step on.

 

 

This moral complexity can sometimes make life a pretty painful struggle, but at the same time it also creates a fertile opportunity for growing a healthy dignity.

 

 

I would suggest it is at, and within, the everyday ambiguous crossroads moments, choices & decisions in Life that we can either rise to the heights of greatness … or fall to almost incomprehensible depths of ‘less than.’

 

 

This can become an even more overwhelming thought as you recognize these everyday crossroad moments continuously branch out from the present moment and choice … and all the while each choice depends on us.

 

Regardless.

 

 

We face the choice with dignity … or we don’t.

 

 

 

We face the choice with blame … or respect for our responsibility within the moment.

 

 

We face the choice, each as a smaller moral choice, as a building block for not only our individual dignity … but a larger building block for the dignity in human life.

 

 

 

Now.

 

 

I am not suggesting that dignity either comes easy or without a cost.

 

 

———

The fight for justice against corruption is never easy.

It never has been and never will be.

It exacts a toll on our self, our families, our friends, and especially our children.

In the end, I believe, as in my case, the price we pay is well worth holding on to our dignity.

=

Frank Serpico

————————-

 

 

 

I included this quote to remind everyone that each crossroad is fraught with peril … and that corruption can be tangible as in crime or intangible as in the soul of Life itself.

 

 

At each crossroad … Life, and choices, attempts to corrupt your dignity.

 

And maybe that is why we elect to not discuss dignity as much as we should.

 

 

I don’t know.

 

 

All I know is that dignity SHOULD be discussed more and we should recognize it has value and we should understand dignity is not easily won.

 

 

It is won through deeds and choices.

 

 

dignity of the means

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“Honour is purchas’d by the deeds we do.”

Marlowe

===

 

 

 

And its victory brings a reward that isn’t measured in some tangible outcome but rather through a quiet personal Life dignity which can sometimes only offer an affirmation a Life well lived.

 

 

 

Anyway.

 

 

Living a life of dignity is not easy.

You have to say no to those around you, you have to say no to society and you most importantly have to say no to yourself.

 

With the sheer amount of everyday crossroad moments each and every one of us faces … we need to maintain a certain discipline to maintain our dignity.

 

 

 

===

“Self-respect is the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.”

Abraham Joshua Heschel

==

=

 

Dignity is a self-thing … what I mean by that is … well … it is a measurement of self. Not really an external measurement.

 

 

 

Dignity is actually a combination of attitude & behavior … an acceptance and an action.

 

 

Dignity is accepting the things ‘not done’ or things we need to apologize for:

 

 

choices morally right

Words.

Actions.

Omissions.

 

 

Dignity is measuring oneself’s actions … failing to step up, or step in, or step to someone’s side <when they needed it>.

 

 

Dignity is standing there and say you’re sorry.

 

Say you’re sorry, say why you’re sorry, and take all the blame. No less, no more <without including anything that places even the tiniest amount of blame back on the other person>.

 

 

Dignity is recognizing you are a work in progress … seeking to be better than before … and accepting it publicly.

 

 

And maybe that is what I wish we would remember most about dignity … and talk about it … and aspire to live a more dignified life.

 

 

Living life in the best way you can, the most honorable way possible … and … well … just try to be better than the day before.

 

 

——

dignity destiny

“He felt he was himself and did not want to be otherwise.

He only wanted to be better than he had been before. “

Leo Tolstoy

===

 

 

 

In the end.

 

Maybe this is all I really need to say about Dignity.

 

Dignity, in the end, is understanding that no one is your enemy … except maybe yourself.

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Written by Bruce