Human Dignity​—A Right Often Violated

“Every detail of camp life was another step down the stairway to humiliation and indignity.”​—MAGDALENA KUSSEROW REUTER, NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMP SURVIVOR.

AS HORRIBLE as they were, the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps during World War II were neither the beginning nor the end of the assault on human dignity. Whether we examine the past or the present, the verdict is clear: “The stairway to humiliation and indignity” is long and well traveled.

Violations of human dignity, however, are not limited to the barbaric acts that have stained man’s history. They often make their ugly appearance in more subtle ways. Think of the child who is taunted because of some physical characteristic. Or the immigrant who is ridiculed for certain “foreign” customs. Or the individual who suffers discrimination on account of his skin color or nationality. The perpetrators may view the matter as a joke, but the pain and humiliation felt by those being thus vilified are no laughing matter.​—Proverbs 26:18, 19.

What Is Human Dignity?

One dictionary defines dignity as ‘the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed.’ Human dignity, therefore, involves both the way we view ourselves and the way others deal with us. While there are a variety of factors that can affect our feelings about  ourselves, the way others view or treat us plays a large role in our sense of personal value in day-to-day life.

Every society has its share of the poor, the defenseless, and the vulnerable. However, being in such circumstances does not necessarily diminish a person’s sense of dignity. It is the attitude and reaction of others that can constitute an affront to one’s dignity. The sad reality is that people in unfortunate situations are usually the ones whose rights to human dignity are slighted or trampled on. How often we hear words like “worthless,” “undeserving,” and “undignified” in cases of abusive treatment of the aged, the poor, or the mentally or physically disabled!

Why do people humiliate one another? Will the basic right to human dignity ever be realized? The following article will provide the satisfying answer from God’s Word, the Bible.