Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Principles as Spiritual Practice — Those Not Known (1.1)

“I take up the way of affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”

The most common interpretation of the first principle that I have come across, and indeed the one that I primarily held for a long time, involves a commitment by myself to the ideal that everyone holds the same inherent worth and dignity as I do… especially those who are in some ways disadvantaged.

Now, it is easy to see that while this is a valuable ideal to hold, but it can also be a paternalistic one. The ideal has the danger of telling people across the world that their inherent worth and dignity relies upon someone else to recognize that they have it (not exactly inherent). That someone is us… and that places us in a position of dominance. By seeking to guarantee someone’s inherent worth through public activism, we can sometimes create situations quite different than our intent. We can lessen someone’s sense of inherent worth and dignity, while increasing our view of our own.

Much of the way humanitarian aid is conducted by Western nations around the world has this effect. It does not create self-sufficiency, but continues dependence. Give someone food, and they become dependent. Teach them to farm without expecting a personal return and you are affirming their inherent worth and dignity.

This danger is why I believe this principle is primarily a self-focused spiritual practice. It is a commitment within our own hearts, minds, and souls to understand and react to those we come into contact with as equals to ourselves. Their interests are equal in importance to ours. They have the same right to resources that we do.

It is an internal commitment that my wants, my desires, my interests, my needs have no greater priority than those of anyone else I share this planet with.

That is a profound statement that is at odds with much of human nature, and almost all of Western culture. It is a statement that can and must have a profound effect upon daily life in a consumer driven society. It is the commitment that, when you find yourself in competition with another person, you intentionally view their needs and desires as having equal value to your own.

It might call you to give up the closest parking space to the grocery store, because someone else has their blinker on.

It might call you to tell your boss that Bob should get the promotion, not you, because his family has a new child.

It might call you to call your sister and tell her you are sorry for something, even if you don’t think you did anything wrong, medicament sumatriptan 100 mg just because you know she needs to hear it.

It might call you to, instead of spending your retirement on a beach in Boca Raton, take five years and dedicate yourself to work in a third world country, or to a cause of social justice closer to home.

Many of us may feel that we are already in a disadvantaged position in society, and we may well be right. But there is another part of this practice, and that is modeling the behavior.

What is Bob going to think when the boss tells him that both of you were in the running for the promotion, but you gave it up because Bob’s family had a new child? What is your sister going to think when you call her and tell her you are sorry and that you love her? What are your friends going to think when you are working harder in your retirement than you ever did in your career?

Well, at first they are likely to think you are nuts. But maybe, years later, Bob may see that an employee is not doing so well at work because they are having family problems, and decide to show them some support rather than fire them. Perhaps your sister will tell your mom that she loves her, even if she is somewhat angry and annoyed over something mom has done. Perhaps the person you gave up the parking space to will do the same, for an elderly man who does not walk quickly.

This practice is about first stepping out of the competitive cycle upon which our society is built, and then through that example inviting others to do the same. They might invite others, and others, and allow this principle of the inherent worth and dignity of every person begin to become a part of the practice of their lives as well.

Our culture will not change with edicts, with laws passed in Congress or directives of the United Nations Security Council. It will not change with “humanitarian” efforts that continue the dependence of the weak and poor on the strong and affluent. Our culture will only change when that change begins in individual human hearts and souls. The spiritual practice of affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person is the beginning of that change… and it can only occur within you.

“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Matthew 22:39

“I take up the way of affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person”

Next in series: Your Own Inherent Worth and Dignity (1.2)

Go to Principles as Spiritual Practice Index Page

2 Thoughts on “Principles as Spiritual Practice — Those Not Known (1.1)

  1. This is very nice and informative David. I was a member of Dynamic Deism for quite a long time and am glad to see that you are continuing to publish your work. I love seeing how Buddhist principals can work WITH Liberal Christianity in helping us find ways to live better and more in accordance with Divine Whisper.

    A quote that I heard seems to line up very nicely with this principal:

    “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
    -Mahatma Gandhi

  2. Amen on the Gandhi quote, Don. Good to hear from you! I love it when I see that the wonderful community that was Dynamic Deism is still around. Thank you for the encouragement.

    Yours in Faith,


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