In this country, we have just had an example of someone behaving without any dignity at all – our soon-to-be ex-prime minister if you haven’t guessed who I mean! His resignation speech was boastful, full of blame on other people, defiant and without an ounce of recognition for what had brought him to this place in his ‘reign’.
It made me think about what behaving with dignity really means, because it sounds rather worthy and proper, and those are adjectives I tend not to apply, certainly to myself! And I reckon dignity is a quality that is appropriate in certain situations, rather than a quality that we demonstrate all the time. (This may be true of all possible qualities).
So when do we behave with dignity? Certainly in defeat. If we have lost the argument, it is time to admit it, and allow the other person their victory without recrimination. It also applies when we are conducting that argument: we can make our case strongly, but it is undignified to cast aspersions on the other person’s personality, and personalise the argument. Dignity is a form of acceptance of how things are, whether you believe they are right or wrong.
Dignity is also about not being shamed or shaming others. That is why we talk about allowing people to die with dignity. It is making sure that others don’t feel bad about themselves.
I think there is one more aspect to dignity. It is about behaving appropriately when the circumstances are solemn, serious, important. No-one in a court setting wants someone to stand up and say, ‘Well this is a laugh isn’t it!’
Now I am not a person who would be described by others as dignified, but I do hope that when the circumstances demand it, I do behave with dignity. Please let me know if I fail!!