Dignity Lost and Found

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Human dignity is a precious commodity. Without it, people believe they have no personal significance—nothing that says they are to be taken seriously. Even in the extreme vulnerability of a serious illness, a person still wants death with dignity, and so we draw documents to protect ourselves.

Dignity is lost in a variety of ways. Constant belittlement destroys our sense of self-worth, for example, as it has for hard-working people in the past few years facing the indignity of layoffs and unemployment.

In his biography of President Franklin Roosevelt, FDR, author Ted Morgan describes the Depression-era president’s bout with polio and the spiritual crisis it precipitated. For a time following his diagnosis, the wealthy and arrogant young Roosevelt abandoned his political goals. The very vocabulary of politics demanded mobility: a candidate ran for office with a running mate. Roosevelt believed that the indignity of polio and the metaphors of politics had already lost him the race.

Morgan believes that Roosevelt’s spiritual struggle lifted him from shallow, selfish ambition to a leader able to identify with the humiliations and defeats of Americans deeply into the Depression. Thus the man who lost and regained his own dignity could help others find theirs.

Jesus’ life and ministry restored dignity to human beings—most often to those disenfranchised or written off by society. Through Christ’s self-giving love for others, people reclaimed their lives. As His disciples, therefore, one of our primary vocations is to respect the dignity of others. Those of us aware of our own sins and limitations find new life when we discover how Christ comes alive in and through each of us. Franklin Roosevelt found his own new life in identifying with people who, like himself, had lost their dignity. Christ came alive in Franklin as he sought ways to help Americans recover from the effects of humiliation and defeat.

Dignity is never earned. Personal esteem derives from God’s gift—from Jesus Christ himself. As Christ grows in us by means of our Christ-like service to others, we more fully understand our own dignity. And we better seek and serve Christ in all persons.

Dignity returns to life when we take other people seriously, listen to their stories, enter their pain. Just a word of affirmation can restore a sense of worth to someone who feels unnoticed or underappreciated.

Questions for discussion:

Is there any question what our vocation is?

What does “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) declare about your own worth?

Where have you observed Christ at work through others restoring dignity in the work place?

How might you imitate Christ?

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