Deliberately reflecting on human dignity as a spiritual activity

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Capt.) Shawn Bishop
  • 341st Space Wing Chaplain's Office
Respecting human dignity is critical. It can, at times, be elusive. Each individual, and each generation collectively, must come to terms with the idea, the responsibility, and the determination to make it part of their (and collectively "its") internal make-up and part of a core inner-principle from which external actions are driven (both the individual and the generation of society). 

Respecting human dignity is important to all other facets of human relationships and interaction, and respect for human dignity starts at home. 

Consider our United States National Security Strategy: 

In pursuit of our goals, our first imperative is to clarify what we stand for: the United States must defend liberty and justice because these principles are right and true for all people everywhere. No nation owns these aspirations, and no nation is exempt from them. Fathers and mothers in all societies want their children to be educated and to live free from poverty and violence. No people on earth yearn to be oppressed, aspire to servitude, or eagerly await the midnight knock of the secret police. 

America must stand firmly for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law; limits on the absolute power of the state; free speech; freedom of worship; equal justice; respect for women; religious and ethnic tolerance; and respect for private property. 
(National Security Strategy of the United States of America, Chapter 2, Champion Aspirations of Human Dignity). 

Part of the essence of our collective identity as a nation emphasizes human dignity around the world. We believe that human dignity is of such importance that the respect of it by nations of the world facilitates the inclination toward peace and stability. 

Respecting the dignity of a small group of society within a country facilitates balance and peace around the world! Hard to believe something so seemingly small has such large ramifications for either peace or war. 

Now the question is: if this is important enough to put into the National Security Strategy, and if it is essentially based upon our ideals within our Constitution, and if we as military persons have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution, and if we each may at some time find ourselves around the world because of the National Security Strategy, then how important must it be in our own little "worlds"? 

What is your sphere of influence? What is your "world"? Do you have friends you spend time with and confide in? Are you married? Do you have children? Are you a son or daughter, a brother or sister? Do you perform military duty with a group of other people? Are some of them your superiors? Are some your subordinates? These are all examples of people whose dignity we must respect. 

Each of us has a sphere of influence, and that sphere will continue to grow over time. Remember to stay engaged with the core-concept of human dignity and to apply it first in the personal, seemingly small-scale relationships. Think about respect for your spouse, and arguing fairly when arguments come. Think about cultivating self-respect in your children and when punishments must be given doing it with restraint, out of love, with compassion while preserving or restoring their dignity. Consider how to help someone get back on track after a mistake. Think about respecting your fellow Airmen and your superiors. Think about respecting your subordinates: training them well, mentoring, correcting and challenging them while valuing their intrinsic human worth and dignity. 

Our nation claims high ideals. These ideals are so important that we must periodically stop and assess how we are in relationship to them.