Dignity also implies that somehow, someway my existences is worth something. Maybe not to the person I'm with. Maybe I don't make their life better in any particular way. But at least they concede the possibility that I might make someone else's life better. Or that I might make something else on this planet better . Or that even if I don't make anything better for anything or anyone, I (like everyone else who was born) have the same legitimate claim for being here.
As a case in point:
Too often in healthcare settings, I get them impression that I'm just another problem to be managed. It's like being one of the groundhogs in the Bill Murray movie. What is important to the provider is keeping the golf course beautiful. My life is just something inconvenient that keeps popping up in their way to getting that done.
Whether or not someone gets paid for their efforts, that is the hell of a way to see or treat other human beings. Practically nothing could be less healthy. This is true both for the well being they are supposedly helping me with and for the well being of the relationship I have with them.
To feel well, live well and be well, I need to be seen by others as a someone of value and worth.
Perhaps that's not honest for you and you don't want to fake it. That's fine, I'm not asking you to.
Your other alternative is to take the time to have an honest conversation.
How about you tell me:
- What you need and value as a person, and
- How you would like me to be there for you more in getting it.
Either way, you are not entitled to treat me like I am yet another inconvenience. And you are not entitled to demand that I guess your needs, get out of your way, or give you what you want upon demand.
Dignity means you need to approach me with respect and ask me for what you need or want. And that is my obligation to you as well.
Then we both have cards on the table. Then we are both making an effort to engage. Then we both get to decide what we want and are able to give. And - most important to dignity - we both get to make a dignified choice about how to respond.