Stop the Humiliation and Restore the Dignity

change-a-person-shaka-senghor

Who Is Your Person?

There is someone in your life right now that needs something you can give.

It’s dignity.

  • Maybe this person messed up in a big way, or maybe they just hurt your feelings.
  • Maybe it’s someone close to you; maybe it’s a stranger.
  • Maybe they only need an encouraging word; no, not maybeeveryone can use an encouraging word.

You’ve been judged before. You’ve been mistreated. You know how it feels when someone looks on you with disdain (even if it’s just another driver who thinks you pulled out in front of them in traffic).

But imagine if you were humiliated every day, like a wild animal undeserving of kindness.

I fnished the last page yesterday of Shaka Senghor’s book, Writing My Wrongs, about his time in prison for murder. And let me tell you what I heard: there’s a whole population of people who are often treated as animals every day. Those in prison.

writings-my-wrongs-shaka-senghor

Maybe you’d say, “Well, prisoners deserve degradation for what they’ve done, for the way they’ve treated other people.”

Crimes do need consequences, yes. But inhumane treatment? No. No human deserves abasement.

And Dignity for All

Everyone should be treated with basic dignity simply because of who they are: another living being created in the image of God.

But another reason we should degrade no one is because of who we are, another living being created in the image of God.

Let’s be concerned today not only for those souls in homes and schools and, yes, prisons, being yelled at and spit on and struck, but also be concerned about those souls delivering the shame.

How we treat others reveals who we are. How we treat others also affects who we become.

Jesus’s Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12), found in every major religion as an ethic of reciprocity, “do to others as you would have them do to you” is life-affirming on more than one level.

Golden-Rule-Thirteen-Sacred-Texts-thumb

Read more here: www.scouts.ca/sites/default/files/sl-Golden-Rule-Across-Religion.pdf

Everyone Benefits

Respecting others not only benefits the receiver; it also benefits the giver.

  • We are more valued when we value others.
  • We are more dignified when we give dignity.
  • We are more loved when we show love.

And we are more like Jesus when we live like Jesus did . . . delivering good news to the poor, announcing freedom to the burdened, giving sight to the blind.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”
Luke 4:18

Give Another Chance Today

Not everyone can be given a new opportunity to start over if they’ve destroyed a relationship beyond recognition, but they can still be acknowledged as a fellow human being, with potential for growth, even if we have to release them from our life and move forward without them.

And for those who are still eligible for a second (or third or hundredth) chance as active participants in our lives, let’s give them today another dose of forgiveness, of faith, of grace. I know I want another dose. And another. And another.

How we treat others is also how we are treating ourselves.

Think about one thing you can do today to help honor someone’s dignity. Maybe it’s just making eye contact at a stop light or smiling at a co-worker or texting an encouraging word to someone who’s been disappointed..

Let these words from Shaka’s book (I highly recommend you read it!) motivate you even more.

Quotes from Writing My Wrongs

“Most of us had come from environments where disrespect, violence, and abuse were the norm. We were used to it—and besides, you can’t change a person for the better by treating him or her like an animal. The way I see it, you get out of people what you put into them, so the officers were only making their jobs harder.”

~ * ~ * ~

“I wanted someone in that restaurant to stand up and rescue me from the streets. I wanted someone to see a lovable, smart little boy who was hurting inside. I wanted to cry out, but I knew I couldn’t because I had vowed never to allow anyone to make or see me cry again. Deep down, I was ashamed of my own fear.”

~ * ~ * ~

“And that’s the thing about hope. In the moment when you feel it, it can seem foolish or sentimental or disconnected from reality. But hope knows that people change on a timeline that we can’t predict. We can never know the power that a word of kindness or an act of forgiveness will have on the person who needs it most.”

~ * ~ * ~

“What I now know is that my life could have had many outcomes; that it didn’t need to happen the way it did. I was once an angry, lost teenager holding a community hostage to fear and greed. Thousands of youth are making the same mistakes every day. But we weren’t born that way. None of our children are born that way. And when they get that way, they aren’t lost for good.

That’s why I’m asking you to envision a world where men and women aren’t held hostage to their pasts, where misdeeds and mistakes don’t define you for the rest of your life. In an era of record incarcerations and a culture of violence, we can learn to love those who no longer love themselves. Together, we can begin to make things right.”

Watch Shaka Senhor’s TED Talk, “Why your worst deeds don’t define you

why-your-worst-deeds-don't-define-you

* * *

What’s your one small thing today to restore someone’s dignity who is down? Please share in the comments.

Here’s my one small thing. Within two hours of finishing Writing My Wrongs, wondering what in the world I could actually do about it all, this opportunity popped up on my Facebook wall:

hygiene-items-needed

So for just a few dollars, I bought some toiletries to drop off to local inmates. It’s definitely not much, but I thank God for giving me something I could do.

toiletries

22 thoughts on “Stop the Humiliation and Restore the Dignity

  1. Michele Morin

    What an amazing story — and I love your analysis of it. Our souls need the dignity of treating others with dignity – as God intends. Thanks, Lisa, for this insightful review.
    Michele Morin recently posted…A Living HopeMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      We totally agree with each other, Michele. Not only do we need to be shown dignity, but we need to show dignity. What goes around, comes around, right? Thanks, friend.

  2. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Powerful post, Lisa.

    One thing – the advice to make eye contact isn’t perhaps the best idea in many situations. There are other ways of showing courtesy and respect that have less of a potential for problems. Too many people have learned to regard eye contact as a challenge, and that can’t be unmade through casual exposure.

    A second thing – I have some experience of giving second chances. I was abused as a child, and as an adult tried to give the people that raised me help, support, and dignity.

    It wasn’t altogether successful. They took it as their due, and went on to find other manipulative paradigms that seriously damaged my marriage (there was a divorce and remarriage in their), poisoned the relationship with my inn-laws, and made my work life a nightmare (they knew where I worked, unfortunately).

    Was it worth it? Frankly, no. They did not need a kind heart and helping hand. What they needed I don’t know, and don’t care. What I do know is that my attempts to offer help took the energy and heart that could have gone to a greater good.

    Sometimes it just comes down to triage.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2016/04/hope-floats-story-of-viet-nam-blogbattle.html
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Hope Floats – A Story Of Viet Nam {#BlogBattle}My Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re right, Andrew, that we have to always consider the context for whether to keep trying to reconcile a relationship or know when it’s time to let go. There’s definitely a time for both, and it’s not always easy deciding which is the right direction….

  3. Dolly@Soulstops

    Lisa,

    So true. Your words and those of Shaka remind me of MLK Jr.’s words in Strength to Love. We must remember each person made in God’s image and to treat each person accordingly. Sounds like a powerful and inspiring read. Thanks for sharing it and blessings to you as you bless others :-)
    Dolly@Soulstops recently posted…Tell Your Heart to Beat Again -10My Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I hear overtones of MLK Jr too. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to read Strength to Love. I didn’t read it until 2014.
      “Is there a cure for these annoying fears that pervert our personal lives? Yes, a deep and abiding commitment to the way of love. ‘Perfect love castest out fear.’
      Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear; only love can do that. Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illumines it.”
      Martin Luther King, Jr.

  4. June

    Excellent post, Lisa. I wish our judicial system was based upon rehabilitation rather than on punishment. I think that, in general (there are exceptions to everything), those who serve short sentences come out of the system worse than when they went in. There is at least one country doing it differently. I saw something recently about it on PBS, but I can’t remember where it was…

    Of course, ideally, you want to meet the problem before the crime is committed. There are some (like you) doing the hard work at ground zero. In the homes and on the streets to change lives. I think if the news would report on these things it would go a long way to change some attitudes and enlighten the minds of some people. All we see day in and day out on the Tv is bad people are doing – never the good. There is still a lot of good out there.

    I’m curious if Mr. Senhor offered any solutions? From what you shared, it sounds like his book contained a lot more hope than some others (Between the World and Me for instance). Thanks for sharing, I’ve added this one to my ‘want to read’ list :)
    June recently posted…Inspired by . . . Psalm 129My Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, this: “I wish our judicial system was based upon rehabilitation rather than on punishment.” Me, too, June. :( I certainly don’t know the answers or how to change things, but I do know that things need to be very different. And yes, if we saw more of the good, it would definitely go a long way in encouraging even more good. Shaka’s book definitely has a more hopeful feel than Between the World and Me (another book I learned so much from!). One take-away for me is that we all need to listen more to each other’s stories and see where the other person is coming from. I would love to hear Shaka speak in person; he does a lot of work among schools and churches, etc.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      If you are able to read this book, let me know what you think, Lori! He relays his story so well, not only in content but also in style. And definitely with heart.

  5. Leigh

    That sounds like a powerful book. I like the word honor–we are called to honor others above ourselves, and sometimes to honor people even when they aren’t honoring us back. We honor God’s calling and purpose in others even when they are not living it out. Visiting from the Missional Women linkup.

  6. Alisa

    What a powerful post, Lisa! I’m constantly reminding myself, even with my kids, to punish the behavior not the person. When we look at punishing the person, we want to make them pay for what they’ve done. When we punish the behavior we are looking for change. It’s the behavior we want to see changed, right? The person is made in the image of God. Yet sometimes, they don’t act like it. The heart is where we want to see changed. I loved that you shared this today at Truth & Grace linkup.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I so agree with you, Alisa. It’s the behavior that we want to change, not only in others but also in ourselves. Transformation is always possible because God wants it more than even we do, and he won’t give up on us if we won’t. Thanks for sharing your encouraging words here.

  7. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! That TED talk is amazing. What a life! How important just a hug is to a young person in pain.
    My brother has volunteered in prison ministry for over 15 years. He runs a bible study, and I have to give him a lot of credit. He says sometimes there’s a lot of people in the group, sometimes not. I’m sure the insights he hears are incredible.

    We can all do so much for each other, and when people like you provide ways to do that, it really is the work of Christ. May we all find ways to be love and support to the people we meet.
    Beautiful post,
    Ceil
    Ceil recently posted…Try. Fail. Fall. Repeat.My Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I was glad to find that TED talk by Shaka Senghor. I first heard him on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday not long ago; very inspirational.

      How awesome that your brother is so committed long-term to prison ministry. May the Lord continue to bless his perseverance and his love for others, as well as bless those that he serves!

  8. saleslady371

    Great message. I notice when I make that choice to treat someone with dignity, I feel more dignified. We all are, as you say, children of God and that’s the best reason right there for our actions! It doesn’t lessen what they’ve done just another choice for us to choose right.
    saleslady371 recently posted…At Sunset, Another PassoverMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Such a beautiful comment all the way around, Mary. We do feel more dignified when we choose right, regardless of what anyone else chooses. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Beverley

    This is a difficult one. I mean I know it shouldn’t be, but I can see why is could be, if it was my husband, my child that had been murdered. No matter what a murder does he cannot undo the wrong, and there are few that can live such a life afterwards that the wrong does not change them perceptively. I am not judge and jury, but I am just wondering!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It definitely is a difficult situation, perhaps the hardest kind of thing of all. I don’t know how I would respond either if someone I loved had been murdered. We can only pray that if we’re ever in that situation, God forbid, that his grace would be sufficient to help us do the right thing.

  10. Carrie

    Wow, such a powerful post. We often don’t think about inmates. We lock them up, throw away the key and they’re forgotten. But worse, now we learn how they’re mistreated. Thank you for shedding light on this and for the critical reminder to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. I love how God opened up an opportunity for you to serve them :)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know I am very guilty about rarely thinking of inmates. Only when someone we know, or something stirs it up on the news, do I think about it. But after reading “Just Mercy” a year or so ago, my heart has been convicted more than normal to consider what we’re doing to those imprisoned. Thanks for your encouraging words here, Carrie.


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