Sunday, December 23, 2012


Local resident of my parent's backyard.

Dignity. I think that will be my word of the year. I’ve never had a word of the year before, but this seems like a good time to start. Forget resolutions, those require a sentence and a bit more commitment than remembering just one word and judging everything by that standard.  Dignity…short and sweet and simple to say.

According to the all mighty green book of grammar (which got me through high school honors English, college term papers and my son’s undergraduate thesis…so it knows of which it speaks…) the synonyms for dignity are:  adorn, advance, aggrandize, elevate, ennoble, exalt, grace, honour, promote, as well as…respectability, stateliness and greatness.  Why do I think dignity is the word of the year? Well…personally, if we had a little more of it (sort of like “self respect or self esteem” but not so buzz-wordy) and if we expected it more of others on both an individual and a cultural/social basis, then maybe our world wouldn’t be so…undignified.

As always, allow me to offer a few examples. Am I going to sound a bit judgmental?, yes, so be forewarned, but maybe aging of myself and those around me has made the need for dignity all that much more important.

Case in point number one: The oft given excuse for bad behavior, “he ‘dissed me” or “he don’t respect me” (poor grammar taken from context) which is just that, an excuse. Perhaps the poor fellow should have considered whether he had acted with respect in the first place or attempted to preserve his own dignity before indulging in whatever action or behavior produced the perceived result/insult. Simple fix, pull up your damn pants and cut out the exaggerated swagger, speak in complete sentences and look me in the eye.

Case in point number two, guard your image. By that I mean not only the impression others have of you, but the actual posting of pictures of yourself in situations which are more foolish than elevating. If one is in a profession where they rely upon the purchase of their goods or services for a lively hood…should said customers be able to view photos of you obviously inebriated, half dressed, oddly dressed, compromised or otherwise, as in not something you want your grandchildren to see someday? Heck with that, your kids’ friends can see them too leading to embarrassment issues on their part. Kids expect their parents’ to act with some dignity, to be “parental”, to set the boundaries of acceptable behavior, not contribute to the lowering of the bar.  Before I go into a rant of the use of FB, let’s flip this perspective.

I want to ask myself as often as possible, “did I treat this person with dignity?” Guilty as charged that many times in the past I have not. But that is what new years are for, note I did not say a New Year resolution, just a new year and new way of looking at things.  Using the list of synonyms, I need to consider if I honored someone, did I treat them with respect; did I elevate their day by my encounter with them? Forget it being about how others should treat me, that Holy Grail of self esteem which society thinks is so important, should be about what type of esteem did I leave with you, not how I feel about myself.

I miss the quiet world in which I grew up. Sorting through photos that captured a moment in time that lead to a conversation are few and far between anymore. I feel a bit of sorrow for those who will someday scroll down a screen and see pictures of grandma in a goofy hat, drinks all around and some guy’s hand where it does not belong by the guidelines of antiquated public decency. When we as a culture decided to “let it all hang out”, we let go of our dignity…which I equate with self respect, not self esteem. I think respect builds esteem, but not by the way our culture has come to expect that to happen. Society seems to think that if one has an elevated self esteem, then one will get respect. Nope, not going happen and we keep seeing the results of this convoluted thinking everyday…I don’t need to tell you where.  If one has a healthy sense of self respect, then maybe, just maybe, second thoughts will take priority over first impressions and impulsive action.

When we depart, and we all will someday, nothing is going with us but a reputation and our dignity. Those go hand in hand…and as this new year comes upon us, my personal priority will be to be more dignified in what I do and how I act. I can hope to expect the same from others, but realistically, no movement, no postings, no signs, no protests, no slogans etc…will make one bit of difference. I can only hope for my behavior to be given back to me, and to be passed along one person at a time, one situation at a time. Ironically, the 2002 Webster’s abridged edition dictionary issued to students does not list the word dignity at all and the accompanying Roget’s thesaurus has as synonyms: haughtiness, vainglory, and lofty with humble being considered an antonym. I ask you…does this say something about where we went off course?

Dignity…keep it, share it, expect it, use it…and if you are offended by this expectation, use the word in the following sentence: I shall not dignify this essay with a response.

1 comment:

  1. It took dignity, and insight, to post this. Let's all consider how just one word can effect our lives.