The Dignified Race

God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness”…So, God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them (Genesis 1.26a, 27a)

Q: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
A: I will, with God’s help.
(From The Baptismal Covenant, The Book of Common Prayer, page 305)


Dignity. The state or condition of worthiness, of having value.

I believe that human dignity, mine and that of all people, is derived from our creation by God; the One who possesses ultimate worth. (Indeed, the word “worship,” a contraction of “worth” and “ship,” literally connotes the intrinsic state or condition of being worthy.)

Therefore, I believe that neither I nor you can gain or increase our dignity by virtue of those humanly highly-valued attributes of wholesome intention, respectable behavior, and grand accomplishment. In a word, we need not strive for (for we cannot get for ourselves) what God already has given to us.

Therefore, I believe (and here’s some good news) that the converse also is true. Neither I nor you can lose our dignity when our intentions are unwholesome, our behavior disreputable, undignified, and our accomplishments little or wholly lacking.

There was a time – a long time – that I believed when someone, whether acting individually or institutionally, mistreated me, deferring or denying me a privilege or an opportunity because of my race, that person should respect my God-given human dignity.

My mind has been changed and my heart turned. I think and feel differently. In lesser part, because I (have had to) acknowledge that though I may commend that another who has ill-treated me regard me well, I cannot command it. Much less, can I control that person. And, in greater, indeed, greatest part, because my human dignity is God-given and, thus, cannot be taken away from me. Therefore, now, when someone mistreats me because of my race, I will pray that s/he, respecting her/his God-given human dignity, will repent and act accordingly.

(c) 2020 PRA

Illustration: The Creation of Adam (c. 1508-1512), Michelangelo (1475-1564)

2 thoughts on “The Dignified Race

  1. Thanks Paul!
    So this has really given me something to think about. I’ve been speaking a lot this month on “Advocating for our Loved Ones” my latest offering. In that presentation I share some of the things I’ve done over the past 14 years to ensure (demand in some cases) that others treat my Mom with the dignity she deserves. I don’t know what she can and cannot process at this point but I’ve sought that medical staff and others treat her like a real person, not an object, and when they do t treat her well, I remove her from y the situation. But maybe I’ve been going at it all wrong, because as you say I can’t control how others may treat us either because of our race, or her disease or both. But I guess if both of us (or at least me) know that we will always have the dignity God gave us that all is well and others have to deal with their behavior themselves.

    Much love!


  2. Ah, no, my dear sister, you’ve not done a thing wrong in caring for your blessed mother. For, as she cannot care for herself, it is your loving responsibility to speak for her and to act for her. Therefore, when “medical staff and others…don’t treat her well, (you) remove her from the situation.” Amen.

    In my case and that of this blog post, I reflect on a particular circumstance of ill treatment of me because of my race. And, in this, I, who does have the power and authority to act/respond, share a another…a new place to which I’ve arrived. That is, rather than demand you honor my God-given dignity, which I cannot compel you to do, I pray for you to honor your God-given dignity (which we share, for God has bestowed it on each and both of us) by repenting of your ill treatment of me and acting in accord with our common dignity. Neither one of us, again, sharing God-granted dignity, can look at the other as an object, but rather and only as a creature loved by God…

    Now, having come to this place, do I still, from time to time, desire that others treat me well and do I, in that desire, from time to time, wish that I could compel them to do so? Yes. And do I, from time to time, recall past incidences of ill treatment and wish those folk who mistreated me would confess their wrong(s) and ask forgiveness? Yes…

    Alas, it is all wasted energy. So, to some degree, my new posture (which, I confess, I am attempting to live into and to practice fully!) embodies an element of self-preservation. For there is no good physical or psychic outcome in expending energy on that which I cannot control or accomplish.



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