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Dignity and Humanity

Updated: Mar 2

Anger, if left unchecked, breeds contempt. Contempt is that which leads the way to the disregard of others dignity and humanity.

Dehumanizing those with whom we disagree has permeated today's global society. No longer can we agree to disagree, as those who have differing or opposing opinions or ways of life (especially when it comes to religious beliefs, political stances, and life philosophies, yet by no means limited to these three) are viewed only as an enemy that needs to be conquered and discarded.

A 2014 article entitled Motive Attribution Asymmetry for Love vs. Hate Drives Intractable Conflict by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences asks the question "why are so many conflicts so intractable when people on both sides could gain from a compromise?" The conclusion, as written so eloquently by Arthur C. Brookes in a March 2019 New York Times opinion piece entitled Our Culture of Contempt is that "each side thinks it is driven by benevolence, while the other is evil and motivated by hatred - and is therefore an enemy with whom one cannot negotiate or compromise."

dignity and humanity
Photo by Sierra Koder on Unsplash

When contempt is bred not just for other peoples ideas, but for others themselves, it is all too easy to dehumanize them, and those who are of the same likeness. With contempt as the lens through which we see, no longer are they humans, like ourselves, who deserve dignity and respect, but they become sub-human. Michelle Maiese, a professor of philosophy at Emmanuel College in Boston defines dehumanization as "the psychological process of demonizing the enemy, making them seem less than human and hence not worthy of humane treatment."

When we strip others of their dignity and humanity, the severest forms of abuse and oppression suddenly become both plausible and feasible. The hate that subsequently grows in our hearts is best described by Brene Brown in her book Atlas of the Heart as she references an October 2018 Emotion Review article by Agneta Fischer, Eran Halperin, Daphna Canetti, and Alba Jasini on Why We Hate. Brown writes that "the goal of hate is not merely to hurt, but to ultimately eliminate or destroy the target, either mentally (humiliating, treasuring feelings of revenge), socially (excluding, ignoring), or physically (killing, torturing), which may be accompanied by the goal to let the wrongdoer suffer."

All said, this begs the question of how do we as Christians take a step back in areas of our lives where we find ourselves enticed by the us versus them mentallity, and remind ourselves that each and every person has been created by God, on purpose, for a purpose. Each human, past, present, and future, is alive only because they have been given the Breath of Life. And though we may disagree with them on the deepest of levels, woe to us who sin against the very Spirit that gives breath to their lungs, whether or not they acknowledge it or live in accordance with it.

How can we learn to disagree, whilst standing for truth, with both grace and humility, all the while recognizing the dignity and humanity each and every person holds as one whom the Creator has deemed worthy of life?

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