“We believe in the dignity of all people.”
Those are words I heard at the Unitarian Universalist church we attended most of my childhood.
While growing up, I thought those words were almost universally shared. I always knew there were people taking actions that didn’t align with showing others dignity, but I believed they were outliers.
I’m not sure I believe that anymore.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines dignity as “the quality or state of being worthy, honored or esteemed.”
I’ll admit, I had to look that up. I always just used it as a synonym for respect.
I’m not perfect at showing everybody dignity and nobody is all the time, but the point is to try.
Karen Armstrong, a British author who focuses on religion and a former Roman Catholic sister, discusses the golden rule as something apparent in every major faith around the world.
“Every single one of them has evolved their own version of what’s been called the golden rule,” she said in a 2009 TEDtalk. “Sometimes it comes in a positive version — ‘always treat all others as you would like to be treated yourself’ — and equally important the negative version — ‘don’t do to others as you what you would not like them to do to you.’”
Armstrong said that by living by this rule “all day and every day” people become less focused on themselves and more compassionate.
Despite it being so present in religions, people often don’t want to be compassionate and instead argue, she said.
“People often want to be right instead and that defeats the purpose of the exercise,” she said. “… If we don’t manage to implement the golden rule globally… I doubt that we’ll have a viable world to hand on to the next generation.”
Now I thew out a religion that I recognize many people don’t know about, so let me explain it since that’s the background I’m coming from.
Unitarian Universalism is a non-denominational faith based on principles rather than a specific text. The core of the faith leans on seven principles:
The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
Acceptance of one another and encouragement of spiritual growth;
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process;
The goal of a world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
While, again, nobody will be perfect at following any faith 100% of the time, I wish something like these were more universally taught or that the golden rule would guide more actions than it does.
These principals are the idea that we should have civil conversations about issues and conversations that go both ways; that we listen with our ears and not our mouths; that we strive to not cause harm.
Things are divisive, right now, more than they have been in a while, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. But, maybe, if we learn to treat people with more dignity and that did become the norm, the divides can still be mended.