Lately I have been contemplating the word “dignity”, it may be because I have also been thinking about my mom. In thinking about her I feel a bit lonely, I miss her unconditional love. By “unconditional love” I don’t mean to misrepresent that she approved of all of my behavior or actions, but I knew that no matter what she loved me. That’s just the way a mother is.I love words and so did mom. We both felt/feel that words had meaning. She was good at games and playing with funny ways to say words. “Pig Latin” was her all-time favorite and she did it better than anyone I knew. “Pig Latin”, for those who don’t know, is when you take the first letter of a word and put it at the end. Mom could rattle off full sentences and oh how she laughed at herself.
As I think about the word dignity I have reflected at how important it was for us to uphold mom’s dignity as her Alzheimer’s took her mind. The word is often associated with death and dying, and rightfully so, but it is an immense word with tremendous meaning.
What does it mean to show or give dignity and what does it mean to have dignity?
Dignity:decorum, decency, respectability, self-respect, poise, honor, character, worthiness, virtue and grace. Dignity meaning: bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of formality or gravity of an occasion or situation.
My mother had dignity and she gave it to others. Perhaps one must have it in order to give it…
The Bible doesn’t have many references to the word dignity but it most certainly infers it over and over again. In the 10 commandments we see that dignity is directly associated with honor. In the first 4 commandments God shows us how to honor and love Him but in the 5th commandment we are told to; “honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” The rest of the commandments show us how to love and honor others. There is an infinite amount of reverence in the commandments.
We give dignity to others when we show them respect. We give dignity to others when we show them honor. We give dignity when we are self- controlled in our behavior and words. We give dignity to others when we poise ourselves in proper decorum, conduct and grace. We give dignity when we pour ourselves out in sacrificial love.
Jesus had dignity. He was and is worthy of all honor, praise and glory. Yet when Jesus was on this earth He had no appearance of dignity, in fact while there are beautiful descriptions of God in majesty in the Bible none of them are attributed to Jesus as He walked on earth. (Many have conjured up false images of Jesus with no Biblical truth.) Jesus the Redeemer that was seen and known while he was here is best described by the prophet Isaiah:
“Just as there were many who were appalled at him- his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness” Isaiah 52:14
“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:2b-3
Dignity is not what we look like it is our character, our essence. I’d go so far as to say it is in part our joyful eternity in Christ. The Lord Jesus revealed the way to dignity also in Isaiah when He declares:
“Because the Sovereign Lord helps me I will not be disgraced. Therefore I set my face like a flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near.” Isaiah 50:7-8b
The Holy One had confidence in the Father, his words reflected his everlasting trust and shield. Jesus knew who He was; He knew what was being asked of Him by the Father. We would be wise to know ourselves who we are in Christ, what is being asked of us and to stand in truth and dignity no matter what.
Nine days before I lost my mother I wrote this…
“Sometime love is marred beyond recognition…It is here where we come to understand that true love has no boundaries.”
Though I no longer really recognized Mom in terms of her personality (Alzheimer's), I still knew her to be my mom. I knew what and who she lived her life for. Mom taught me so much, she stood strong in spite of her environment, the world’s evolving immorality, the disappearance of family values and others dismissal of her Christianity. She was a woman of great dignity.
Since her death I have sorted out many things in my own life. There was a time when dignity was not an aspiration. There was a time when I had no need to self-reflect on what personal character was. There was a time when walking with God was but a causal thought, not an embraced effort. There was a time when if I was hurt by others treatment of me I’d lash out, become a victim. There was a time when I cried for hours because my own perspective was blurred and my conduct was unbecoming. Dignity had no meaning; truth, a plural word not an adherence to conviction and believe.
There were times when prior to her Alzheimer’s mom occasionally slipped into loneliness and depression. I understand it better today. The world is a lonely place, people do not extend honor and grace naturally. Dignity is a forgotten noun. Pride is on the rise…
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