What Does 'Dignity' Mean to You?
A Casual Conversation…
A few weeks ago I spent some time with a powerful entrepreneur and philanthropist, someone I respect for his achievements but, more meaningfully, for who he is, and how he acts.
The conversation flowed from technology to culture, to creating a positive impact in the world. He's putting a new initiative together and we were bouncing ideas around.
'Dignity' Lit Us Up…
The word ‘dignity’ came up and we lit up like sunflowers in the summer.
One of the non-profits I work with has dignity front and centre of their mission, and my inspiring colleague told me the story of his grandfather, a cabinet maker who, for him, had embodied the word in the work he created.
Dignity in form.
Our conversation stayed with me and today I was reflecting on the meaning of the word 'dignity'.
It's commonly used to describe a way of being, and the conditions that facilitate that for other. We see dignity in someone when we see a person who has agency, not dependency, who is able to express their essential humanness.
When I looked up the origin of the word, though, I saw that it comes from the word 'worthy'. Of course there is more than one definition, but the one that struck a chord with me was this,
The state of being worthy of respect or honour.
I love that it’s a state where ‘worthiness' of dignity is bestowed; is earned rather than claimed.
And that made me think: what if we looked for dignity, not in others, but in ourselves. What if it was our intention, in every interaction, to come from a place of dignity, whatever the situation or perspective of the person in front of us.
Look into the Soul
We are all human after all and the more we can identify with the humanity of the person in front of us, the more likely we are to be worthy of respect or honour ourselves.
Not that honour for its own sake matters, but for the positive impact that can ripple out into the world when we act as our best selves.
I'm curious—what does 'dignity' mean to you?
Is there someone you know on whom you would bestow the honour? And what if we could see it in everyone we looked at, met in the street, the supermarket, at work? What if we all had it, just that some of us worked a little harder to cover it up?