Life-Love 56: Restoring someone’s dignity

Life can be a real trial for many people. It all feels so transient – people have part-time contracts at work, they live together in precarious relationships that always feel as though they could crumble at any moment. Friendships can be fleeting and illusory – based on shared experiences in places that really don’t have much depth, like nightclubs or sports bars. So much of life is one or two-dimensional, brittle. None of it feels very dignified – it’s feels rather reductive, actually. Many of us feel as though our grasp on our lives is fleeting, as though we were hanging on jogging beside our lives, hanging on and trying not to fall away into the ditch. We often have the chance, however, to restore the dignity of someone else. To offer security, predictability and principled support. To welcome them, admitting our own vulnerability and allowing them to express theirs. All of  a sudden, when you do this, you open a door that gives onto a sunlit place. A peaceful place. A living place where material things are secondary, where life’s drumbeat is muted. A human place. This can happen anywhere – when a friend has been disappointed in love and sitting, teary-eyed on a park-bench; when a colleague faces a challenge and you generously help them out with a smile, expecting nothing in return but their restored happiness and ease. When you offer the gift of dignity to another, you see a weight lifted from their shoulders. Sometimes, this can be accompanied by a visceral cry of rebellion. Your gift is repaid with bad behaviour, the fruit of this person’s new-found freedom, but once the person understands that this rebellion is really just another form of bondage, they start to understand the extraordinary gift that you gave them, when you offered them their dignity. This could take minutes, weeks, or years. That’s why dignity and welcome should be given freely and with an open heart. A promise made to a better future. Don’t worry, the person whose dignity you restore may not thank you, but they will remember you forever and speak of you in moments of doubt. You will be a touchstone for them. What could be more human?

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