Dignity is “The quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed.”
Wikipedia defines it as “is the right of a person to be valued and respected for their own sake, and to be treated ethically. It is of significance in morality, ethics, law and politics as an extension of the Enlightenment-era concepts of inherent, inalienable rights. The term may also be used to describe personal conduct, as in “behaving with dignity”.
When I think about dignity today, I think about worthiness, respect and self-respect.
German philosopher Immanuel Kant believed dignity is related to human agency and our ability to choose our own actions. He thought free will was an essential component.
When was the last time you thought about dignity?
It came into my mind when I was thinking about the virtues and values most important to me. It caused me to think about my definitions and feelings on dignity, and it’s role in my life.
Are you dignified?
Do you treat yourself in a dignified manner?
Do you treat others in a dignified manner?
I know how easy it is to be hyper-critical and hard on myself.
And it can be easy to mistreat others through the internet, social media and anonymity. Distance can make it easy to treat others as less-than.
We all struggle with this at some level.
Politics and culture can bring out the worst in us.
It’s for these reasons and more I wanted to share my favorite quotes about dignity and how you can apply them in your life. I hope you pick up something which allows you to extend yourself and others a little more of it.
Our first quotes come from an American baseball player and an American author
“The most luxurious possession, the richest treasure anybody has, is their personal dignity.” -Jackie Robinson
“If a person happens to find themself, they have a mansion which they can inhabit with dignity all the days of their life.” -James A. Michener
Personal dignity has immense value. As with so many things in life, we can forget about or neglect it when times are easy. When times are hard, we appreciate what we had, or what we could lose, and what’s most important comes into greater focus.
Certainly, Jackie Robinson is a shining example of personal dignity. He helped change the world by enduring awful conditions day in and day out, while maintaining his dignity and composure.
The next come from a Former President of the United States and an American business magnate
“A truly American sentiment recognizes the dignity of labor and the fact that honor lies in honest toil.” -Grover Cleveland
“I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no person a living but that it owes every person an opportunity to make a living.” -John D. Rockefeller
I first heard the term “dignity of labor” when I was 18 and it’s always stuck with me. I believe it to be true.
We, humans, appreciate things more when we’ve worked for them. We value things we get through struggle.
Think back on the things you’re most proud of; are they things that came easy or are they things you worked hard for?
And Rockefeller made the important distinction of “head or hand.” I find value in physical exertion as well as mental.
Our next two come from a Russian philosopher and an American author
“Freedom, morality, and the human dignity of the individual consists precisely in this; that he does good not because he is forced to do so, but because he freely conceives it, wants it, and loves it.” -Mikhail Bakunin
“Relationships based on obligation lack dignity.” -Wayne Dyer
Dignity is found in free will and choice. It is found in personal agency.
Forcing someone to work, or compelling an action does not result in dignity. In fact, it can strip someone of it.
Next are quotes come from a Former President of South Africa and an American psychologist
“Any person or institution that tries to rob me of my dignity will lose.” -Nelson Mandela
“Human dignity is based upon freedom, and freedom upon human dignity. The one presupposes the other.” -Rollo May
Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Nelson Mandela fought for human rights and human dignity.
Mandela suffered in prison for 27 years so others could be free.
Freedom is an essential component to human flourishing and dignity.
Our final quotes come from a Greek philosopher and an American minister
“The ideal person bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.” -Aristotle
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
Do your best.
In the face of adversity, do your best.
In the course of your daily work, do your best.
Real world application
Following on the thoughts of Dr. King, make sure your work is uplifting humanity in some way. It may sound trite, but I believe it’s possible to find meaning and impact in most every kind of work.
Once you’ve decided on the work you want to do, do your best at it.
Worthiness and respect are at the heart of dignity. Do you believe yourself to be worthy of being treated how you want?
Decide how you want to be treated, and don’t tolerate anything less than that.
Recognizing others’ dignity and treating them in a dignified manner is imperative. This is true for those we agree with, and those we disagree with.
Treat others as you’d have them treat you.
I mentioned I had been thinking about values and I wanted to encourage you to do the same. You can access our Values Course at no cost.
I hope you’re gotten something valuable from this to help you on your journey!
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