Human Dignity Is Core To Our Humanity
Respect – why is it a necessary social value and what does it have to do with creativity? We especially recognize how essential respect is when someone treats us disrespectfully. Consider how fundamental respect is. Someone can’t say he/she loves you and yet treats you disrespectfully. While love and respect are not the same things, respect qualifies the authenticity of love. Can you imagine someone telling you he/she loves you but belittles or demeans you, making you feel like you are not worth much? Disrespect makes love suspect. On the other hand, you can still respect someone you don’t love or like. You can rightly say, “I don’t like you, but I respect you.” Opponents can disagree and dislike each other but still respect each other. This illustrates respect is a core social value. Respect is a core value because it is rooted in a core property of our humanness – dignity.
Humans were designed to have inherent dignity as image-bearers. In the practice of making things, made-objects will by the least bear the skills of its maker. On another level, made-objects will bear the thoughts, ideas, and visions of its maker to varying degrees. On the most personal level, if an object is made to be a direct reflection of its maker, like a self-portrait, it bears a unique honor by possessing characteristics of the maker and representing the personhood of the maker. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God chose humans to be his self-representation. Using himself as the model and paradigm for our design, he poured himself into humans to bear resemblances of his attributes, being a representation of his character and glory. Our dignity is connected to the personhood of God. People weren’t just made with skill and vision. People were made in the image of God. We, therefore, have an image-based dignity, not a dignity based on merits, credits or societal comments. Image-based dignity is grounded not on our achievements but in God himself. That makes our human dignity sacred, and it should not be violated. Since our human dignity is founded in our design, our dignity is inherent. We are born with dignity. Human dignity should be assumed in every person, from the chief operating officer to the homeless person. A person passing me on the street does not have to earn a base level of respect from me. A person deserves my respect simply for being human, because we are both image-bearers of God. Respect is a core social value because our human dignity is inherent.
Who likes being disrespected? When we’re disrespected, we sense a property that is true and precious in the core of our being has been denied. Extreme disrespect becomes more clearly an act of dehumanization. To see my human dignity as something less than yours is to make me sub-human. To deny my dignity is to deny my humanity. Racism denies human dignity. Slavery denies human dignity. Abuse denies human dignity. These injustices attack our image-based dignity, attacking the image of God we possess. Human dignity is a reason for social justice.
On the positive side, when respect, honor, praise, courtesy, and regard are given to one another, we edify each other’s beauty, worth and importance. A wonder of our humanity is in God’s original creativity we were forged in his image to bear dignity.