“The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being” – St. John Paul II
DIGNITY. What is it? What gives it worth? What determines it? Power? Intelligence? Passions?
Nietzsche would say that we focus wholly on the will by inflating our ego until it works to our advantage. He would determine that it is found in our will to power. The more power we gain the happier we will become. Can we gauge our dignity on that? Kant would say it is held up principally by reason, his categorical imperative would suggest that happy living is determined by the mind. Can we gauge our dignity on that? Bentham would suggest that the key is found in the passions, our emotions determine us. To produce pleasure and avoid pain is the greatest achievement of man, he says. Can we build our dignity on that? Each of these philosophers hold a mustard seed of truth when it comes to what aids humanity in the wholeness of fruitful living. But they only present the peak that adorns a mountain.
A mother gives her son an apple to take to school. He throws it into his backpack, but days go by and he forgets he has it. Days later, when he finds it, it is rotten, so he takes it and throws it away, he simply takes it and tosses it. Now compare this to a dad with his child. His little boy contracts an illness and slowly, due to his illness, the child’s body begins to deteriorate. He is “rotting”. Will his Father simply throw his son away? Now consider why you said “No” without hesitation. And God-forbid you answered “Yes”, consider why you did so.
“You must remember to love people and use things, rather than to love things and use people” -Ven. Fulton Sheen
DIGNITY. We simply have it because we are made in God’s own image. Because we are made in his image and likeness we automatically become worthy of respect and love. This should wipe clear any distinctions, restrictions, bias, segregation, or requirements to receiving respect.
That example was a bit extreme. Let’s turn to something more applicable. An extinct species, let’s say a Gorilla, is in the forest. Also, in the forest is a man on an impromptu exploration. A scientist is standing nearby observing the gorilla in his natural habitat. The gorilla is only one of 50 left on the earth, so the scientist is very meticulous on capturing every movement and reaction. Along comes the explorer and both he and the gorilla come face to face. Frightened, the gorilla begins to charge toward the man with a growl, knocking the man over. The scientist having a gun for protection, has to choose: which one should he rescue?
We have to remember that the worth of man does not depend on whether or not he is loved, rich, powerful, good, etc. He is a rational being with a divine nature rooted in an immortal soul found to be in God’s image, no one has the right to disregard or trample on that reality. The gorilla, although owed respect, does not hold the same level of dignity.
Now apply this principle truth to a whole community of people. Respect is blind to religion, sexuality, nationality. In denying them our respect, we deny God his respect too. Each of them contributes a brush stroke on the canvas of God’s image, not because of anything they have done to become this image but simply because of who they are: Human.