Dignity

Why staying civil is the key to conflict resolution

Dignity Vow #2

A New Approach to New Year's Resolutions

 

Dignity Vow #2

 

 

"What are we here for but to make life a little easier for one another."

 

George Eliot

 

 

Let's face it: There's nothing easy about staying committed to the belief that we are worthy, no matter what.  As the first dignity vow requires, we accept the truth that our dignity is not up for grabs, no matter how anyone treats us.  As Martin Luther King made clear, "One's dignity may be assaulted, vandalized, cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away." 

 

The challenge for us all in maintaining the vow is to recognize the difference between an assault to our dignity, which temporarily makes us feel bad (not unlike a physical wound) and the enduring feeling of worthlessness that a misguided understanding of dignity creates.  We may behave badly at times, and we need to hold ourselves accountable for it, but the core of who we are still remains invaluable, priceless, and irreplaceable.  What can we do to keep this important distinction clear in our minds so that when something bad happens to us, we don't succumb to the temptation to question our core worth?  How do we manage this shared but rarely discussed vulnerability? 

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Here's where dignity vow number two comes into the picture.  Seek the comfort of others when you start questioning your worth. The big challenge in this vow is forcing yourself to not withdraw into seclusion when your dignity has been injured. The healing process requires attention to the wound just like a physical injury.  Ignoring it, sending it underground, only makes it worse.  We need others to acknowledge the wrong, and help us recover from it.

 

It is important to keep this in mind:  Others are not capable of taking our dignity away from us with their harmful actions, nor can they give us our dignity.  Our dignity is part of our DNA.  What they can do is remind us of the truth about who we are:  invaluable, priceless, and irreplaceable.  Seeing this truth reflected back in the eyes of others will not only make us feel better, but restores the power and hopefulness that doubts about our worthiness deplete.

 

In the beginning and in the end, dignity needs connection to thrive.  It's the one sure way of making life a little easier for us all. 

 

 

 

Donna Hicks, Ph.D., is the author of Dignity: The Essential Role It Plays in Resolving Conflict and an Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University.

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