Dignity, Being Normal, and Other Matters

What is it to be normal? What is it to have dignity? What is it that drives us to fit in? What is it that makes us want to be recognized and respected?

Perhaps to answer these questions, one would have to ask an even simpler ones:

What is “normal?”

What is “dignity?”

The answer, I believe, lies well written in this quote:

“The only kind of dignity which is genuine is that which is not diminished by the indifference of others.”

Dag Hammarskjold
Swedish diplomat (1905 – 1961)

“…is that which is not diminished by the indifference of others.” This is the answer to the question. This is what drives people to be accepted. Dignity is simply not to be over-looked.

In order to not be belittled, you have to be accepted. You have to share beliefs, values, avocations and interests. You have to be able to relate in some way or another to those around you. It is only then that you can share you thoughts and accomplishments, and have them be appreciated. This is the drive to be normal. And this of course also means that “normal” is defined completely different by different people. And it is only when you are perceived to be “normal” by a group of people, that you can be recognized with dignity. Take a few examples.

Myself, as a musician, am finding it increasingly difficult to relate to, and therefore hold up with dignity, those who have little knowledge of, or appreciation for music.

Often times, people of higher academic standards in schools cannot look upon those with lower grades with any dignity, because ultimately they considers themselves to normal, and cannot consider anyone else to be the same.

Perhaps a more critical example is the LGBT community. Many people, especially Christians, have trouble seeing those of different “sexual orientations,” with respect or dignity. Yet among themselves, they can consider themselves to be “normal,” and can see themselves with dignity.

This, once thought about, begins to explain the formation of cliques, social classes, and the whole works. The reason is very simple. People, once having subconsciously learned this, begin to gravitate to only the type of people who will consider them normal, and look upon them with dignity.

Here lies one of the biggest hurdles for the follower of Christ. As Christians, we are called to be in community. More often than not, divisions in the church are based upon the need to be seen with dignity, or one group of people’s lack of. It would seem, based upon the patterns of history, that eventually the Church would eventually disintegrate if based solely upon these things. Fortunately, the answer is much larger than the dilemma.

Jesus reversed the idea of normal. It was Jesus, the perfect Son of God, that spent the majority of his time amongst prostitutes, tax collectors, the poor and the “scum.” It was Jesus, the master teacher, that chose uneducated fishermen to be his apostles, his first-class pupils. It was Jesus, blameless, that took upon himself the sins of liars, murders and thieves.

Logic cannot explain this. Nothing Jesus did was status quo. In fact, that was perhaps the reason so many people hated him. But that didn’t stop him. He lost his human dignity to give God’s dignity to those who deserved it most.

And that’s what we are called to do. It’s hard, in fact impossible by human measures. But as Jesus did, we have the opportunity to reverse the idea of normal, only because of the power of the cross. Through Jesus’ eyes, we can take honor in recognizing others. No longer do we need to belittle because we can’t relate by means of occupation, or political view. It is in this that we establish a new normal. A normal where dignity is not the goal, but the byproduct. The normal of love.

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