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Article:   Respect for Human Dignity is the Answer

By Janet Pfeiffer
Daily Record
April 22, 2008

Our country has truly been blessed with the recent visit of Pope Benedict XVI. His powerful message pertaining to human rights is one we must all take to heart. In part, the Pontiff states that "respect for human rights, not violence, is the solution to many of the world's problems." That statement is the foundation for helping to create world peace.

In every facet of our lives we judge and grade those around us. If we don't like someone we place less value on them. If someone offends us by their behavior we hold them in less regard than another. Should someone oppose our beliefs, we may very well demote them in importance. We show favoritism to those we like and hold them in higher esteem than others. We fail, or perhaps refuse is a better word, to recognize the intrinsic value in all human life.

Who among us has the right to determine another's worth? Who am I to say that one of God's children has greater or lesser value than another? Granted, some people's behavior is more disturbing than others. But behavior is not an indication of one's value. It is the way we've learned to deal with life's circumstances and can be changed at any given time. It is not up to me to judge. It is up to me to look within myself and identify my own flaws. Only then can I work on improving the person I am and will become.

I am a survivor of domestic violence. My abuser took out his pain and fear on me. Years of living with a violent parent, suffering the horrors of the Vietnam War, returning with untreated PTSD, and dealing with the daily physical pain from having stepped on a land mine, he repeatedly acted out his suffering on me. Acceptable? Absolutely not. Understandable? Certainly. I did not place judgment on him. I left for my own survival but I know that he is loved as much by God as I am. (That is not to say that he does not need to be held accountable for his behavior or that it may continue because it's not his 'fault'.) But he did not enter this world a violent man. Violence became his method of survival. Had I responded to him with violence, where would that have gotten us? Would anything have been resolved? No. That would have only led to more violence. By maintaining my dignity and beliefs in the intrinsic value of all human life, including his, I at least had the opportunity to teach by example.

Which one of us does not want to be treated with respect? And who among us does not respond favorably when treated as such? When someone is kind to you, it is so easy to be kind in return. When someone is fair with you, the natural response is to treat them in the same manner.

The reverse is true as well: when someone hurts you, you may want to hurt them back. At the very least, there is a high probability that you will become angry or resentful toward them or loose respect for them. If someone affords others privileges that are not given to you, it leads to hurt and anger. Questions of one's own self-worth may surface as well ("Is there something wrong with me?").

To deny an individual their God-given right to be held in the highest regard or to play favoritism is inhumane and hurtful. To devalue someone only fosters resentment and pain in their hearts. And remember, we act out what we feel.

Respect begets respect and as Ghandi said, "I must first be the change I want to see in the world." Let me be the example by treating all human life with dignity and honor.

All human life is sacred. We are all a reflection of God's perfect love manifest in human form and we all deserve to be valued and treated equally.

The way to begin resolving the world's problems is to treat one another as the sacred gifts they are, to hold them in higher regard, to bolster their self-esteem and reveal to them the true beauty that lies within. When universal love and mutual respect becomes a way of living and all judgment is left to God, we stand a much better chance of attaining world peace.

Janet Pfeiffer is a columnist for the Daily Record.

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