Though the idea of self- dignity seems simple enough at first sight, it is actually fairly complex. The Dictionary defines dignity as "elevation of character, intrinsic worth, excellence... nobleness of manner, aspect, or style." Of recent it is synonymous with "prestige, esteem, reputation, honor, glory, renown, fame" — evidence that over the last forty years the word has gone through more morphological changes than the infamous Bad black. When we inquire about living with dignity, what springs to my mind is living with the conviction that one's life has intrinsic worth that we possess a potential for moral excellence and humility that resonates with the rhythm of the seasons and the silent hymn of the galaxies.
To ask what it means to live with dignity may sound strange in an age like our own, when our frantic struggle to make ends meet hardly allows us the leisure to ponder such weighty matters. But if we 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 their hands. The question not only touches on the very meaning of our lives, but goes even beyond our personal quest for meaning to bore into the very springs of contemporary culture. For if it isn't possible to live with dignity then life has no transcendent purpose, and in such a case our only aim in the brief time allotted to us here on earth should be to snatch whatever thrills we can before we “bite the dust”. But if we can give sense to the idea of living with dignity, then we need to consider whether we are actually ordering our lives in the way we should and, even more broadly, whether our culture encourages a dignified lifestyle.
The conscious pursuit of self dignity through humility does not enjoy much popularity these days, having been crowded out by such stiff competitors as wealth and power, success and fame, Just ask the Kardashians and throngs of “celebrities” tussling for likes and comment on social media. All these have worked together to undermine the notion that our lives have any more worth than the value of our bank accounts. “If you don’t make money you don’t make sense” is just one in a long list of tragic mantras modern-day youths live by. We have become clever monkeys with degrees and business cards.
Such ideas, in however distorted a form, have seeped down from the halls of academia into popular culture eroding our sense of human dignity in the process. Many Cities have expanded into sprawling urban jungles, dirty and dangerous, whose dazed occupants seek an easy escape with the help of drugs and loveless sex. Escalation in crime, political corruption, upheavals in family life, the despoliation of the environment: these all speak to us as much of a deterioration in how we regard ourselves as in how we relate to others.
Amidst these pangs of forlorn hope, comes the answer that will help us recover our lost sense of self dignity and thereby give new meaning to our lives. The answer is humility. In this we find what we must do to actualize our potential self- dignity.
Humility or humbleness is a quality of being courteously respectful of others. It is the opposite of aggressiveness, arrogance, boastfulness, and vanity. Rather than, "Me first," humility allows us to say, "No, you first, my friend." Humility is the quality that lets us go more than halfway to meet the needs and demands of others. Friendships and marriages are dissolved over angry words. Resentments divide families and co-workers. Prejudice separates race from race and religion from religion. Reputations are destroyed by malicious gossip. Greed puts enmity between rich and poor. Wars are fought over arrogant assertions. Why do qualities such as courtesy, patience and deference have such a prominent place in the Bible? It is because humility is exactly what is needed to live in peace, harmony and most important of all, self- dignity. Humility dissipates anger and heals old wounds. Humility allows us to see the dignity and worth of all God's people. Humility distinguishes the wise leader from the arrogant power-seeker.
Acting with humility does not in any way deny our own self- worth. Rather, it affirms the inherent worth of all persons. Some would consider humility to be a psychological roadblock that interferes with "success." However, wealth, power or status gained at the expense of others brings only anxiety -- never peace and love. Some of the world’s greatest dictators are a testament to this e. g Hitler, Napoleon, Saddam and Musolini. All these “great” leaders met an unenviable demise due to a lack of humility.
“It is better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” Proverbs 16:19)
I maintain that we should maintain an attitude of deference toward both God and other persons. Self- dignity cannot be found or practiced through arrogance or anger. As servants of God, we must respect all of God's creation, including our fellow human beings
Humility means putting God and other persons ahead of our own selfish interests. Humility comes with the knowledge that God's creation as a whole transcends our own narrow interests. As with other aspects of wisdom, humility will gain us much more than we sacrifice.
It is all too easy to react to life's annoyances and disappointments with anger. It is far more challenging, but much better, to react with humility. In this way, we can quickly settle disputes and avoid making mountains out of molehills. The humble demeanor is a perfect tool for avoiding disputes and hard feelings.
Proverbs 29:22 says, “An angry man stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.” Meaning that bearing a grudge and seeking revenge are never appropriate responses to a perceived wrong. A grudge destroys the grudge-holder with bitterness; revenge only fans the flames of hostilities. Jesus told us we must reconcile with our adversaries, forgive their transgressions, and let go of the anger that may tempt us to commit an act of revenge:
Returning love for hatred can often cool the fires of anger. It is very difficult not to respond to anger with even more anger. However, when we respond to anger with humility, we can often break the cycle of hatred and convert even our enemies into friends. Jesus gave us the unique command to love even our enemies:
In today's hectic world, humankind is veering recklessly in two destructive directions. One is the path of violent struggle and confrontation, the other that of frivolous self-indulgence. Beneath their apparent contrasts, what unites these two extremes is a shared disregard for human dignity: the former violates the dignity of other people; the latter undermines one's own dignity.
By being humble, we acknowledge that God created us for his purposes and not for our self-glorification. By humility we acknowledge the dignity of all people and subsequently our own. Politeness is a sign of dignity, not subservience. By humility we cool the angry passions of others; just like a parent apologizes to his or her child, not because he/she is in the wrong but to teach the child that being right is not always the most important thing but rather being at peace with one another. By humility we can turn enemies into friends.
As I conclude I remind all of you that a humble demeanor is not a denial of our worth as individuals. Rather, it is the tool that allows us, insofar as possible, to be on good terms with all persons. Citizens of earth, the only way we are going to achieve self- dignity is by each one of us seeing the other as a human being and not a bank account, a rival, a servant or a means to an end. Every life deserves a certain amount of self- dignity, no matter how poor or damaged you are. It’s the best gift you can give to yourself.
Byron. A Musaalo
Head of Literature
Seeta High School- Green campus