The world is suffering from a pandemic of indignity.
It shows up every day in big and small ways—in the wars taking place all over the world, as well as the unnamed wars inside our workplaces, schools, churches, in our families and within ourselves. These wars share the same root cause: We have lost sight of a fundamental truth about the human condition; that we are all born worthy of being treated as something of value.
All human beings are unique; there is only one copy of us around. Something so precious deserves to be treated as invaluable, priceless, and irreplaceable. Yet, not a day goes by when we don’t experience some kind of violation to our dignity—a rude remark, a critical tone of voice, a dismissive gesture intended to make us feel small. We all know the crushing and intolerable feeling of being shamed.
We human beings have an uncanny way of knowing how to psychologically hurt one another, and the attacks are always aimed at the most vulnerable aspect of our being—our dignity, our sense of worth. We share this vulnerability, just as we are all prone to physical attack and injury. Whether we are aware of it or not, when we inflict wounds on one another, they are meant to make us doubt the very core of who we are. They leave us with the question, “Am I good or am I bad?”
The truth about wounds to our dignity is that they don’t go away. They accumulate within us until we do something radical, like scream at someone, walk off a job, leave a marriage, or start a revolution. In over twenty years of experience in conflict resolution and international field work, every conflict I’ve seen, big and small, involved underlying, unaddressed dignity wounds. These wounds are rarely discussed.
Once I became aware of the destructive effects that these wounds had on us, I knew I had to give voice to them. Beyond the conflict resolution work I was doing professionally, I needed to address personal wounds to my dignity that had held me back from flourishing; these unhealed wounds put our lives on hold. In parallel, I also had to examine the ways in which I had violated other peoples’ sense of worthiness.
Through my research, I realized that our reactions to dignity violations are primitive and that we need to expand our emotional capacities, so that we can learn new ways of responding to them. Even more importantly, we must honor each other’s dignity—to prevent conflicts before they arise. While it is true that we are all born worthy, we are not necessarily born knowing how to act like it. It needs to be learned—just like anything else.
Declare Dignity has many aspirations. In addition to the Declaration, which is designed to raise awareness worldwide of the importance of dignity, we are working in schools and universities, corporations, organizations, churches, and with leaders of all kinds to help them embody and spread the message that it is no longer acceptable to treat one another in ways that do harm to our dignity.
We have a lifetime of work ahead us, but the solution to the epidemic of indignity starts with your personal efforts. Please join us today in tackling this universal emergency by treating yourself and others around you with the dignity everyone deserves.
The remarkable truth about treating others with dignity is that it strengthens our own. By committing to the Declaration of Dignity, you’ll recognize how powerful and worthy you really are. Join this global cause and become a Dignity Agent right now. You’ll be in good company.