Something You’re Born With

There are many ways to disrespect other people's dignity. Someone can be seen as a vehicle to achieve a goal, and obstacle standing in the way or simply nothing worth acknowledging. Labeling people by one defining feature is another for of violating dignity. You can also violate your own dignity by comparing yourself to someone you idolize.

There are many ways to disrespect other people's dignity. Someone can be seen as a vehicle to achieve a goal, and obstacle standing in the way or simply nothing worth acknowledging. Labeling people by one defining feature is another for of violating dignity. You can also violate your own dignity by comparing yourself to someone you idolize.

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“Please step forward if you wish people at school were nicer to one another.” 

I take a deep breath, and do what I feel is right. I feel my heart race as I unlink my arms from those of my neighbors, and my foot leads the rest of my body three steps toward what I’m sure is social suicide. However, to my surprise, I turned back to find a vacant space where upwards of 150 people had stood arm-in-arm just moments before. Almost every other person in the room had joined me. 

I look back to our guest speaker who holds up his hand, his ring and middle fingers pressed against his palm; a symbol that, in American sign language, means “I love you.” He oscillates back and forth a few times, much like an electric fan, making sure his comforting gesture reaches every person at some point. Suddenly, I wasn’t so different from everyone else.

This was the overwhelmingly supportive environment created by the equity training: an event led by Trent Day Hall where student-leaders were taught how their actions affect those around them. The experience was one that can’t be compared to anything else I’ve ever experienced. For as long as I can remember, my schedule has been jam-packed with activities, sports and many other group and team activities. However, none of them can even come close to mirroring the amount of genuine encouragement I bathed in that day. Having this experience, and feeling this magnitude of unconditional support, I cannot help but want everyone else to experience the same. 

The way Hall described it, dignity is a sense of self; something each person is born with; something that no one can take away. Our only responsibility is how we choose to treat our own dignity as well as that of our peers. To honor someone’s dignity is to treat them as your equal. 

On the flip side, to violate someone’s dignity is to put yourself above them. There are many ways to violate a person’s dignity, and most of the time we are not even aware we are doing it. That being said, it is important for people to consider how their emotions will affect those around them, because for every action, someone is affected.

That guy you befriended in math class so you could get help on the homework; you used him as a vehicle. That girl you talked bad about because she got the part you wanted in the school play; you only see her as an obstacle. That teammate you stopped waving to in the hallway as soon as the season was over; you treated them as nothing

Luckily for us, respecting the dignity of others doesn’t take much.The largest component of being able to respect people’s dignity is being aware of your own actions. Since ever action will affect another person, taking a second to consider the impact of your actions can make all the difference. 

You don’t have to go out of your way, either. It could be something as simple as smiling at a familiar face in the hall, to something as impactful as having a heart-to-heart conversation with a close friend. Any effort put into others has the potential to make a person’s day. In the end, the decision is up to you.

 

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