Monday, June 2, 2014

Can we promote and affirm the inherent worth and dignity of Every Person even in people we consider "terrible"?

As Kenneth Collier points out in his book, "Our Seven Principles in Story and Verse" "We do not always live up to the rhetoric in our Principles." p.13

Collier writes a bit further, "When we fail to live up to our rhetoric, we do not see the failure as a fault or the result of inherent evil within ourselves, but as an indication of our inherent human limitations." p. 14 In other words, as human beings we are often unskilled, unaware, and we make plenty of mistakes.

Collier goes on to tie the idea of human limitations with the Greek idea of "Telos" which can be described as a purpose in the sense of striving to achieve a goal, to achieve completion, fulfillment, One of the definitions of The Good Life is to recognize that it is a work of art in progress and every day, every hour, every minute we are alert to how we could improve ourselves. One of my favorite management ideas is CQI, Continuous Quality Improvement. In business we are continually looking for ways to improve the product we manufacture or the service we deliver. In our personal lives we are continually alert to how we can develop into our better self and how we can better relate to and serve others.

There are many stumbling blocks and barriers to the realization of the first principle, the promotion and affirmation of the inherent worth and dignity of every person. The biggest stumbling block is hatred and fear of those whom we perceive as enemies. Jesus told us we have to love our enemies, and Unitarian Universalism in its first principle is encouraging the same idea when it says "every" person, not just some.

Collier asks "Does anyone really believe that inherent worth dignity dwell within every person? If so, how can it be promoted even in terrible people?" p.15

From Dead Man Walking:


  1. If there ever was a great example of promoting the inherent worth and dignity of every person who has done terrible things, Sr. Helen Prejean is a great example in her ministry to rapists and killers on death row. Sister Prejean is famous for her statement that she believes that every person is worth more than his/her worst act.

    I love what you are doing with UU A Way Of Life and I look forward to the new posts every day. I have been forwarding them to my friends as well. I hope that your on-line magazine flourishes and benefits the many people it comes into contact with.

  2. It is written in A Course In Miracles, "You forsake yourself and God if you forsake any of your brothers. You must learn to see them as they are, and understand they belong to God as you do. How could you treat your brother any better than by rendering to God the things that are God's?" T-5.IV.6:6-8

    Unfortunately, other than human beings who are enlightened, most humans have not evolved far enough to appreciate this understanding. We see ourselves as separate, and our fears divide us. When we come to the awareness that we all are one, we will have arrived home. The principle of the inherent worth and dignity of every person, in spite of their bad behaviors, is a key insight that brings us closer to what the Course calls the Atonement.

    Thank you for this monthly theme. I have found it very encouraging.

  3. How often has a parent or some other authority figure said to a child, "You should be a shamed of yourself!" What is this shaming about and is it accurate? Should the child be ashamed of his or her "self" or embarrassed and regretful for he or she did?

    Toxic shaming seems to violate the first principle. How many UU parents use this parental technique to control their children's behavior?

    1. How often when angry have we "damned people to hell" or said, "God damn it!" whether ourselves or at others. It is easy to be "nice" when things are going well, but to be "kind" when the chips are down is another matter. It is at those times, that our Unitarian Universalist values are tested. I failed often enough and yet I keep trying to be responsive and not reactive. It is a constant effort to monitor and be mindful of my own emotional responses to things that annoy, frustrate, discourage, and threaten me and my beliefs. I pray to be a better person, and look constantly for role models who will inspire me to handle my behavior and emotions in more constructive and beneficial ways.