Human Dignity

The first inbornintention is human dignity.

Who are you? Think about that for a moment.

What terms would you use to describe yourself at birth, such as your gender, race, physical characteristics and nationality? Next, describe yourself in terms of your relationships: wife/husband, son/daughter, friend, lover, parent, etc. Now see yourself in terms of your occupation and material assets/liabilities: rich man, poor man, beggarman, thief. Identify any other quality or characteristic that you acquired during your lifetime that helps you see yourself as you do. Quite a list, isn’t it?

Now recall that earlier thought experiment when we considered that unusual couple, Lee and Marie. Imagine your “self” in the same condition as one of this pair. You would now see yourself without any of the characteristics just identified. You still exist as a living, breathing and intelligent human being who must make your way in the world, but you have had none of the experiences that taught you to see yourself as just described. What remains once you have eliminated every variable?

A great deal is left 

You would possess many qualities or characteristics, such as:

  • the faculty of self-awareness; consciousness
  • the capacity for rational and abstract thought that extends far beyond instinct
  • the ability to judge or evaluate behavior; the existence of a conscience
  • an aptitude for language and writing
  • proficiency in using numbers and mathematics
  • dexterity in making and using tools
  • the capacity to appreciate beauty; an aesthetic sense
  • the need to discover and explore wherever curiosity leads
  • the capacity for having patience
  • the capacity to “time-bind”, the ability to pass knowledge on the next generation
  • possessing qualities such as trust, gratitude, loyalty, hope, faith, laughter, humor
  • the capacity to experience a wide range of feelings and emotions
  • the ability to make sacrifices, and
  • have a sense of future time and an awareness of eventual death.

Some would add having a soul that continues after death. Although debatable, we certainly have  a “spirit”, another quality that transcends all beliefs, feelings, attitudes and behavior and is with us throughout life.

Human dignity defines our core self

The term “human dignity” summarizes these innate and immutable qualities. Having human dignity provides the rationale for placing a high value on ourselves, and for considering ourselves as being worthwhile. Human dignity is what distinguishes us from all other animals. Because of it, we have developed moral and ethical sensibilities and the ability to appreciate value in ourselves and others. Because of human dignity, we have developed complex codes of conduct and attitudes towards self and others go far beyond self-interest. Without human dignity, the term for our species, “homo sapien” (Latin: homo: man + sapien: wise, rational), would be an oxymoron.

It is important to know that human dignity exists within each of us. Being aware that it is immutable and always present as a part of our self can help us through some rough spots. It becomes the foundation for self-understanding and an excellent basis for self-esteem. Appreciating human dignity in self and others is the single most important contribution to mental health.

Distinguish between human dignity and self-esteem

Human dignity and self-esteem are different. Human dignity defines who a person is, while self-esteem is an evaluation of one’s self. Individuals are always vulnerable to distress if they base their self-esteem on a variable such as accomplishment or a relationship. However, basing self-esteem on human dignity assures that a positive sense of self remains intact, despite disappointment, failure or rejection.

Human dignity is universal

Note that in accepting your own ever-present human dignity, it must be granted that every other human possesses it as well. No exceptions. For optimum mental health , it is imperative to respect human dignity in ourselves and others. It is the only inbornintention that permits perfect alignment between itself and your own basic beliefs.

How did we develop human dignity?

As humans evolved, the qualities that constitute human dignity also developed. It is improbable that they just suddenly appeared, lacking any precedent. What was the precursor of human dignity when the organism that was to become human had only a reptilian brain? These creatures undoubtedly sensed a need to survive, and may ultimately have developed the sagacity to know that living was worth the effort; they expressed this by placing value on their life. This may very well have been the beginning of the marvel and wonder of humanity: a living, breathing entity that possesses human dignity.

A question for your consideration and comment

In a sentence, how would you define the difference between “self” and “self-image?”

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