Dignity is something which is important for us, and when we lack dignity, may it be in work, or relationship, or somewhere else, it hurts us.
But when we look at what makes us feel having dignity, there is not one simple answer. One typical situation which is about others is, when we speak our truth, and are willing to meet the consequences. There may be insecurity, but there is dignity.
Another typical moment, which is about ourselves, is, when we accept the feelings which we have, without putting pressure on ourselves that we should feel differently. We simply say yes to our subjective individual reality, without comparing it to other people or the expectations of our inner critic.
Other moments where dignity sometimes appears are connected with nature. Moments where we manage to step out of our usual mind traffic, and are able to tune in to nature. Maybe with a tree, with mountains, rivers, with the ocean. We become part of something which is bigger than our small ego-self. We become part of nature, we feel connected. One aspect which is part of all these examples is, that we don´t fight, and that we do feel the feelings which we have.
One of the strongest moments where I met dignity in the recent years was connected with the death of my father. He had a small accident, he fell from a ladder in autumn, and broke his lower leg. Not such a big thing. But there was some mistake happening in the hospital, and it didn´t stay such a small thing. Some nerves going to his left foot got cut, and he couldn´t walk anymore as before. He needed another operation on the knee, and somewhere in the course of these operations he picked up multi resistant bacteries. For a period of almost 10 years, he got seriously sick 3 times a year, always different problems, with repeated treatments in intensive units. He was strong, and he didn´t want to die. He always managed to fight the illnesses back. But it was tiring him, and also difficult to take, that the next outbreak of the infection could come any time, and to know that it would come. The situation was eating away his dignity, to need so much care, to be dependent, do be weak, to deal with pain so much. The agony stretched already for quite some years.
Then he happened to have another infection, he again was lying in the intensive care unit of the hospital, and I went to see him. And suddenly there was a huge change. He was clear. And he said. “All I want is 3 things: I want to go home from hospital. I want to stop eating. And I want to die”. He was 85 at that time.
The next day he signed the papers in the hospital, that he wants to be released, and went home. He stopped eating. And on the third day he left this world peacefully in the arms of my mother. 3 little steps, and they made disappear all the suffering, the fears and hopes, the pains of years. He left in a state of dignity, he reclaimed his dignity. It was such a liberating feeling for all of us, to see him in his dignity.
Still now, 5 years later, when something reminds me of dignity, this moment appears immediately. What was and is so beautiful about this experience is, that it was so ordinary, nothing special, and that it appeared from this only too human struggle with sickness and suffering by accepting the situation, and saying yes to the flow of love, which at that time already meant saying yes to dying. But it was a death with dignity.