by Pastor Kathy Itzin
All of our souls reveal the image and likeness of God. We all have great dignity at the very core of our being! This is something easily forgotten when we experience the effects of aging, disability, loss of a job, financial setbacks, or other ups and downs in life.
I hear statements like, "She can’t use the restroom anymore without assistance. I wish she could have more dignity," or "He needs help feeding himself now. I hope I never lose my dignity like that." Dignity has nothing at all to do with our physical limitations! Dignity is at the core of who we are, and it is shown by our actions and our words. It isn’t based on our level of independence, or dependence on others.
Our culture prizes independence. We emphasize individualism more than the benefits of relying upon a community. We are taught to depend upon ourselves, and to provide for our own needs. If we lose a job, need to declare bankruptcy, move to assisted living, or need to stop driving, it can feel as if we aren’t worth as much; that we are no longer as valuable to society.
That isn’t true. Our dignity isn’t based upon what we earn, how ‘important’ our jobs are, or if we can feed or dress ourselves. Our worth is based upon our being human, and a son or daughter of God. We are tremendously important, regardless of our abilities or limitations.
Over and over again, the Bible includes stories of God choosing the least valued, the little ones, for important jobs. Jesus was constantly showing that no one was more or less important than others. Abilities had nothing to do with the dignity and value of the person.
Our dignity doesn’t change because our life circumstances change. When Jesus spoke about unclean food, he said, "There is nothing outside a person that by going in, can make that person unclean; it is what comes from inside of you that makes you clean or unclean." (Mark 7: 18-21, adapted). We can apply the same thing to our life circumstances. ‘There is nothing from the outside that can take away your dignity; that is determined from within you.’ (adapted)
The importance and dignity of a person doesn’t fluctuate with the changes life brings. Our hearts determine the level of our dignity. Our great dignity remains from birth to death, as long as we remain open and responsive to the Spirit of Goodness within us.