Everybody wants to feel like they matter, that they are valued by other people. Probably no other need is so overlooked as this.
Hunger, shelter and sex call for attention in ways that are much easier to address. These are probably the most instinctive human needs and knowing how to solve them seem also instinctive.
People need dignity
Yet the need for dignity is not so easily addressed. When a young person begins to notice this need there is, most times, no teacher to tell her what she needs to do to satisfy that need.
Young people see others who have the trappings of dignity: cars, homes, clothes, titles etc., and they are excluded from the places and events where these people go.
They don’t know how to get the dignity they crave and they stew in their frustration.
Over time, if isolated, or surprisingly fast if they belong to communities of like experiences they retaliate against those who have what they want; and ironically against themselves.
They think the trappings (cars, jewelry, clothes etc.) are the source of dignity and they seek to acquire those trappings—at any cost. The cost is their dignity, their freedom … their lives.
The role of work
There is perhaps no greater contributor to a person’s dignity than work: meaningful productive work that contributes to the welfare of others, fulfils personal ambitions and builds relationships.
In anti-work cultures, people look for other means to take care of their financial requirements. Some turn to crime, others live off government handouts and many more take meaningless jobs where they transact for money with their physical presence and movement i.e. they move things around as a facsimile of work.
But these do not produce dignity, only the financial means they need to survive and a faux dignity that comes with anger, frustration and fear.
Changing this experience of work is necessary to have it (work) be an authentic source of dignity.
How to steer people to find dignity?
It’s tough to change a culture that doesn’t want to be changed but we must or the culture will destroy it’s progeny.
The major initiatives must come from our schools because education is the means by which we equip our young people to build the future.
We must stop feeding children answers and instead start encouraging them to engage with the questions that will affect their lives.
What is dignity and where does it come from?
A good place to start is by asking that question of early teens and encouraging them to keep exploring their own answers to it.