The Gift Of Dignity

Image used for representation only

“Dignity”, says Donna Hicks, researcher on dignity and conflict resolution, “is our inherent value and worth”.

When we gift something, we express value and worth. When we value the gifts that we receive, we recognise the value and worth of the gift.

The flowers of the Coral Jasmine fall on the ground every morning in the sweet hours of dawn. The fragrance of the flowers is carried the breeze through the day bringing love and energy to everything it touches. The Coral Jasmine is a giver, as is the breeze. They offer dignity through their gifts.

The morning birds sing the sweetest songs and awaken the world before the rising sun drinks up all the dew. The birds offer dignity through their gifts.

The stream gushes from its origins in the mountains spreading life abundantly as it moves joyously towards the river where it merges its existence to become one with the river. The stream offers dignity through its gift of life.

The clouds offer all the water it holds as rain before the wind carries it away. The cloud offers dignity through its offering the showers of rain.

Generosity is their way of giving. Generosity is an act of dignity.

When we value what we receive– and hold gratitude for the acts of giving, for the abundance, and for the consistency of the givers acts of giving – we hold the dignity of the act of giving. And in doing so, we respect the giver.

When we pull out the Coral Jasmine because it showers too many flowers every day, shut the windows to keep out the bird songs for their ever-sweet songs, and reclaim the space of the stream so it may flow no more, we not only destroy our heart, little by little, we violate the dignity of the acts of giving of Coral Jasmine, the birds, and the stream. We disrespect the givers. 

Reason measures our cost of receiving rather than the value of the gifts. Feelings inherently know the value and worth of the offerings. When we let reason hold our feelings hostage, we violate the dignity in the acts of giving. We disrespect the givers.

The story of the young lad who yearned to learn the art of archery is old. There are many versions of the tale but it has lessons to teach about dignity.

The lad approached the most renowned teacher with the request to become his pupil. The teacher refused to teach him as he was not from a royal family. Driven by the passion to learn despite the teacher’s rejection, he built a statue of the teacher to learn archery. Discipline, prayer, and worship made him the finest archer ever.

The teacher heard of his extraordinary skills and called him over.

“Who is the teacher who taught you these extraordinary skills?” asked the teacher after experiencing the magic of this extraordinary lad.

“I learnt my archery from you.” said the lad. 

Surprised, the teacher asked, “How can you have learnt from me? You were not in my school of archery.”

“Yes, despite my wishes, I was not in your school.” He continued, “I value you as a teacher, so I built your statute and worshiped it every day to draw inspiration and wisdom. Your blessings gave me the discipline and insight to become an archer with skills.”

The teacher looked him up and down. He realized that this young lad had excelled beyond the best student he had ever taught. With perhaps just a moment’s pause he said, “You learnt from me yet did not make an offering to me in gratitude for my teachings.”

The lad looked back at his teacher with love, admiration, and gratitude. He responded, “What would you have me offer you in return for your teachings, sire?”

Without flinching an eyelid, the teacher responded, “Gift me your right thumb.”

The lad looked at his teacher and without a word cut of his right thumb to offer it in return for the teaching. He gave no thought that without the thumb he would not be an archer anymore.

Gifts tell much about the giver. But perhaps even more about the receiver.

The man who can receive gifts is indeed fortunate. For receiving is an act of gratitude, humility, and grace. It is an expression of joy. It is a prayer to be grateful to find oneself among the fortunate to receive gifts. It recognizes the value and worth of the gift. It is an act that dignifies the act of giving. It respects the giver.

The teacher could not see the value and worth in the act of being recognised for his skills by a pupil he had turned away. He violated the dignity of the act of giving. By demanding a gift, the teacher does not bring dignity to the act of sacrifice of the young lad, rather he violates dignity again. In claiming the skill of the young lad so he may never be an archer anymore, the teacher fails to recognize the value and worth of the gift of archery. He disrespects the young lad.

Those that can gift their meaning and purpose to others are extraordinary souls indeed. But what can we say of those who ask for gifts of purpose and meaning of another so that there may be no meaning and purpose left for the giver?

When we create our world where we come together without common purposes, we experience an asymmetry of experiences. The gift of one becomes the disability of another. Without the symmetry of experiences, the value and worth of offerings are dissimilar. When we build our world with such lack of concern for the purposes that draw us to interact, we create a world of without dignity. A world of conflict, pain, suffering, and war.

When we can find our wisdom to discover common purposes, we ensure the symmetry of experiences of those who interact. With the symmetry of experiences, the value and worth of offerings are similar. We find dignity in the interactions and respect for each other.

Gift the world you interact with dignity. Find the respect for those who interact with dignity.


#All views mentioned in this column are those of the author and/or individuals/institutions that may be quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same. 

Anupam Saraph

Anupam Saraph

Dr. Anupam Saraph grew up in a Pune that was possibly a tenth of its current expanse and every road was lined by 200 year old trees. He’s committed to the cause of de-addicting the short-termers.

He can be reached @AnupamSaraph
Anupam Saraph

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