The Dignity Of Freedom
Dignity is the rarest of virtues today. In other places, I've characterized this age as the age of gullibility and paranoia, but in terms of its moral character, this is the age of squalor and indignity.
What Is Dignity
Of all the virtues, dignity is the most difficult to identify, because it is not characterized by any specific human behavior but an overall expression of virtue itself in all of an individual's behavior: including all his attitudes and actions.
Dignity is that characteristic of an individual that expresses his own sense of self-worth, of his own value as a human being of integrity and achievement, his own life as his most valued possession, a treasure to be jealously cherished and preserved.
Dignity is that sense of pride which is the recognition of one's own moral character and virtue, in all that one has made of one's self.
Dignity encompasses all that is meant by self-esteem and is expressed as that self-assurance and self-confidence that comes from recognition of one's own competence.
Dignity is, above all, the sense of the nobility of one's own nature as a human being that can never settle for less than the best in all matters: physical, intellectual, and emotional.
Dignity is expressed as one's value of one's self and experienced by one's sense of privacy, propriety, and self-respect.
The Sense of Privacy is one's recognition of their own individuality and self-worth in both body and mind. Neither their thoughts or their bodies are trivial, but so important that neither is to be shared with anyone who is not recognized as worthy of that intimacy. An individual's sense of dignity will not allow him to share his most intimate thoughts with just anyone, but only those others who can appreciate those thoughts. An individual's sense of privacy will not allow him to share his body with just anyone, but only another who will truly respect and appreciate that intimacy.
The Sense Of Propriety is one's recognition of his own uniqueness as a human being, of what is appropriate to the kind of being he is, and what is not. An individual's integrity will not allow him to engage in any thought or action that is degrading or beneath that which is truly human, a being who embraces and lives for his values. The sense of propriety expresses itself in all an individual is and does, his appearance and all public behavior, his speech and his language, how he carries himself and how he relates to others as a being capable of having and achieving values, of love, of honor, and of pride.
The Sense Of Self-Respect is one's sense of personal value that prevents him for ever settling for anything less than the best he is capable of achieving, acquiring, being, and enjoying. The man of dignity will never settle for the cheap, the easy, the sordid, the degraded, the corrupt, or the common, or anything that requires little or no virtue or character to be or have. The man of dignity can never be satisfied with anything other than the genuine, the earned, the decent, the wholesome, the honest, the exceptional, and that which demands his best to have and enjoy.
The Dignity Of Freedom
One might have all the virtues and still not have dignity. One might be a
well integrated individual, be responsible, honest, competent and productive and still lack the virtue of dignity; but one cannot be all that a human being can be without dignity which is the highest expression of what it means to be a human being.
Of course, to be all one can possibly be requires one to be free to exercise all their abilities to achieve what is possible to them. In that sense it is obvious that freedom is necessary to human dignity, but there is another sense in which freedom is dignity.
The free individual is all a human being must be. To the extent an individual settles for less than being totally independent and all that he can be he is neither an individualist or free. Only an independent individuals can be truly free, and one cannot be a free individual without dignity.